Scientists say neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s may be linked to defective brain cells disposing toxic proteins that make neighboring cells sick.
In a study published in Nature, researchers found that while healthy neurons should be able to sort out and rid brain cells of toxic proteins and damaged cell structures without causing problems, laboratory findings indicate that it does not always occur.
These findings could have major implications for neurological disease in humans and possibly be the way that disease can spread in the brain.
Scientists have understood how the process of eliminating toxic cellular substances works internally within the cell, comparing it to a garbage disposal getting rid of waste, but they did not know how cells released the garbage externally.
Working with the transparent roundworm, known as the C. elegans, which are similar in molecular form, function and genetics to those of humans, the researchers discovered that the worms — which have a lifespan of about three weeks — had an external garbage removal mechanism and were disposing these toxic proteins outside the cell as well.
The researchers found that roundworms engineered to produce human disease proteins associated with Huntington’s disease and Alzheimer’s, threw out more trash consisting of these neurodegenerative toxic materials. While neighboring cells degraded some of the material, more distant cells scavenged other portions of the diseased proteins.
Paper: “C. elegans neurons jettison protein aggregates and mitochondria under neurotoxic stress”
Reprinted from materials provided by Rutgers University.