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Researchers link metal ions to neurodegenerative disease

ed from the brain shortly after they are produced.

The scientists, collaborating throughout the United States and across Emory, focused on the smallest individual unit of amino acids that make up amyloid fibrils. By determining only an individual unit's physical and chemical properties when binding with metal, the researchers were able to determine the activity governing the assembly and toxicity of whole fibrils with respect to their effect on brain cells.

"We showed that the activity of this minimal unit actually replicates the activity of the whole fibril on the neuronal cell. And it does so by binding the metal in a specific way," says Dr. Lynn.

Forty years ago, scientists began exploring a possible link between overexposure to metals and Alzheimer's disease. Because some people with the disease had aluminum deposits in their brains, it was thought that there was a direct connection between aluminum exposure and Alzheimer's. However, after many years of study, no conclusive evidence links aluminum to neurodegenerative disease, which leaves researchers to focus on zinc, iron and copper.

The researchers also found that several distinct types of structures could be assembled from individual units of amino acids. "We found that we could build lots of different types of structures with an individual unit: fettuccine-shaped structures, tubes, vesicles, and so on, not just fibers. And this is remarkable," says Dr. Lynn.

"Our findings now lead us to ask what other types of structures these individual units can make, what exactly happens when the units bind to one another, and whether these individual units are important to neurodegenerative diseases or whether the entire fibril must be involved," says Dr. Lynn.

"Like many scientific findings, we know about amyloid because of the diseases it's associated with rather than because of its benefits," says Dr. Lynn. "However, researchers are also finding situation
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Contact: Holly Korschun
hkorsch@emory.edu
404-727-3990
Emory University
6-Aug-2007


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