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Largest map of human Alzheimer's brain published

Tuesday February 5th, 2019

The largest dataset into the human brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease has been published, paving the way for new research into dementia.

The freely available data, developed by a team of researchers led by Dr Richard Unwin at The University of Manchester, UK, has been hailed as an important advance for scientists researching Alzheimer’s.

The analysis mapped the relative levels of over 5,825 distinct proteins across six regions of the brain – the hippocampus, entorhinal cortex, cingulate gyrus, motor cortex, sensory cortex, and cerebellum – generating 24,024 data points, according to the study, which is published in the latest edition of Communications Biology.

The research team also demonstrated that the cerebellum, one region of the brain previously thought to be unaffected by the disease, displayed a series of changes that could protect it from damage caused by Alzheimer’s.

Dr Unwin said: “This database provides a huge opportunity for dementia researchers around the world to progress and to follow-up new areas of biology and develop new treatments.

“It could also help validate observations seen in animal or cell disease models in humans. It’s very exciting to be able to make these data public so scientists can access and use this vital information.”

Using samples were donated for research by patients at the New Zealand Brain Bank, the researchers examined different parts of the pathways in the brain, observing for the first time how Alzheimer’s progresses.

“We think that the changes we see in the regions affected later on-represent early disease changes, present before cells die,” said Dr Unwin. “These represent good new targets for drug developers, as we know it’s important to try to intervene early.”

They also found new molecules not previously associated with the disease, representing more targets to develop new drugs, and identified 129 protein changes that were present in all areas of the brain studied, with at least 44 not previously associated with the disease. Hundreds of others were found to change only in the late-affected regions.

Dr Rosa Sancho, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, which funded the study, said: “By studying thousands of individual proteins, this exciting research has generated a detailed molecular map of changes that get underway in the brain in Alzheimer’s disease.

“Making this information freely available online will help researchers to navigate the complex and changing environment of the brain in Alzheimer’s and identify processes that could be targeted by future drugs.”

Xu J, Patassini S, Rustogi N et al. Regional protein expression in human Alzheimer’s brain correlates with disease severity. Communications Biology 31 January 2019

https://doi.org/10.1038/s42003-018-0254-9

Tags: Brain & Neurology | UK News

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