Recent research at the University of California, Davis, and the University of Auckland has revealed that neuroglobin may protect against Alzheimer's disease. It works by preventing brain neurons from dying in response to natural stress.
Scientists have learned that neuroglobin protects cells from stroke damage, amyloid toxicity and injury due to lack of oxygen.
It occurs in various regions of the brain and at particularly high levels in brain cells called neurons.
However, the exact mechanisms by which neuroglobin protects cells was not known yet.
A cell dies quickly when its mitochondria stop functioning.
Various kinds of stressors, such as lack of oxygen, low nutrient levels, increased calcium levels or presence of toxic substances can cause mitochondria to rupture.
UC Davis biomedical engineering professor Subhadip Raychaudhuri found that neuroglobins neutralize a molecule necessary for the formation of a type of protein that triggers the cell's collapse.
In Alzheimer's disease too, a toxic type of protein accumulates in brain neurons and leads to mitochondrial rupture and cell death, and hence this find could have important implications in treating AD.
The team published the results of their study in the April, 2010 issue of Apoptosis.