Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Brain Trash
11 March 2013

Brain Trash

Our cells are experts at recycling. Millions of times per day, used-up or damaged proteins are broken down and their chemical pieces cleared away or recycled. But what if this didn’t happen? What if these bits of ‘junk’ protein were left to pile up, like rusty fridges on a landfill? This picture shows amyloid fibrils, protein fragments that accumulate inside the brains of Alzheimer’s disease sufferers, forming hard plaques that are toxic to brain cells. The random nature of these plaques makes designing drugs to break them apart challenging. The orange colour in this picture is a sticky dye that, like plaster poured into a mould, has settled inside the nooks and crannies of the different amyloid structures. By attacking places highlighted by the dye, future drugs might aim to prise cracks open as a step towards scrapping harmful amyloid plaques for good.

Written by John Ankers

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