Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Alzheimer's Society – The Longest Day Protein Plaques
21 June 2015

Protein Plaques

The prion protein is a pathogen that’s able to fold in multiple ways, causing prion diseases such as mad cow disease. These rare neurodegenerative conditions occur when prions get tangled in the brain tissue of mammals, forming protein clumps known as plaques. Luminescent compounds have previously been used to isolate and study prions – a technique which is now being used as a way to study the progression of Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is known to share certain similarities with prion diseases – in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients amyloid-β and tau proteins form clumps around nerve cells. Recent studies on the amyloid-β plaques (pictured in blue) using the tools taken from prion research, revealed different strains of amyloid-β. This variation may explain why sufferers deteriorate at vastly different rates. Further studies hope to unveil the triggers behind the protein deposits, helping with the design of new therapeutic drugs.

Written by Helen Thomas

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