Synapses, the place where brain cells contact one another, play a pivotal role in the transmission of toxic proteins. This allows neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s to spread through the brain, according to new research published in Cell Reports.

During neurodegenerative disease, including Alzheimer’s, toxic proteins are known to spread throughout the brain. As the disease progresses, more and more brain areas are affected.

The researchers now offer proof that synapses are critical to mediate the transmission of toxic protein species and reveal the mechanisms behind this process. They show that the toxic proteins cross from one brain cell to the next by being engulfed by ‘vesicles’, small bubbles in the receiving brain cell. There the vesicles burst and release the toxic proteins.

These findings open new perspectives for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. By understanding how toxic proteins are passed on between brain cells, researchers may also be able to identify therapeutic avenues to block this process or to shuttle the toxic proteins to the cellular “waste bins”.

Paper: “Loss of Bin1 Promotes the Propagation of Tau Pathology”
Reprinted from materials provided by VIB-KU Leuven.