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Researchers link failed cell division, Alzheimer's disease

Researchers have uncovered a key piece of missing evidence in the proof that nerve cell death in Alzheimer's disease is caused by a failed attempt at cell division. They have found a significant number of brain cells in Alzheimer's patients with extra copies of chromosomes, showing attempts at cell division in cells that are not supposed to divide. This effort to divide is the likely cause of the nerve degeneration and dementia in Alzheimer's disease, say the researchers.

"It's almost as if Alzheimer's disease were a novel form of cancer," says Karl Herrup, senior author of the findings published in a paper by researchers from Case Western Reserve University's School of Medicine and University Hospitals of Cleveland in the April 15 issue of the "Journal of Neuroscience." Cancer is characterized by uncontrolled cell division. In this study, scientists found uncontrolled cell division, arrested in the midst of the process, is the likely cause of the nerve cell destruction.

"We've been able to show that the duplication of the DNA has occurred in neurons in the Alzheimer's disease brain. By looking at four locations in the genome, we can be pretty confident that the DNA duplicated completely, not just in a few spots," says Herrup, a professor of neurosciences. According to Herrup, memory loss in Alzheimer's disease is always associated with the accumulation of strange deposits in the brain known as plaques and tangles. Most investigators agree that these deposits are central to the disease, but are not in and of themselves the cause of memory loss. The clinical symptoms are more closely tied to the nerve cell death, but the links between plaques and death were unclear. "The simplest view is that plaques are directly toxic to neurons. The cell division hypothesis puts a different spin on this idea," he says.

While previous studies from this team and others have provided indirect evidence of cell division in Alzheimer's disease through the detection o
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Contact: George Stamatis
gxs18@po.cwru.edu
216-368-3635
Case Western Reserve University
16-Apr-2001


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