Alzheimer's disease is characterized by the formation of amyloid plaques in the brain tissue that are made up of an insoluble protein, 'Amyloid-beta' (Abeta). These proteins form small structures called 'oligomers' that are important in the disease progression.
Although these proteins are known to be involved in Alzheimer's, little is understood about how they lead to memory loss. A new University of Sussex study has revealed that a brain protein believed to be a key component in the progress of dementia can cause memory loss in healthy brains even before physical signs of degeneration appear.
This study reveals a direct link between the main culprit of Alzheimer's disease and memory loss. Neuroscience researchers have investigated how Abeta affected the healthy brains of pond snails (Lymnaea stagnalis) by observing the effect of administering the protein following a food-reward training task. They found that snails treated with Abeta had significantly impaired memories 24 hours later when tested with the food task, even though their brain tissue showed no sign of damage.
George Kemenes, a neuroscientist at the University of Sussex, said, "Because we understand the memory pathways so well, the simple snail brain has provided the ideal model system to enable us to link the loss of established memory to pure Abeta."
Lead author Lenzie Ford from the University of Sussex said, "This study demonstrated that Abeta alone is enough to lead to the symptoms of memory loss that are well known in Alzheimer's disease. The work will provide a platform for a more thorough investigation of the mechanisms and effects on memory pathways that lead to this memory loss."
Professor Serpell, who is senior author on the study, said, "It is absolutely essential that we understand how Alzheimer's disease develops in order to find specific targets for therapeutics to combat this disease."
The study has been published in Scientific Reports.