A group of researchers from McMaster University has found at atomic resolution a toxic protein linked to Alzheimer’s illness, permitting them to perceive better what is occurring deep within the mind through the earliest stages of the disease.
The findings, published on the front cover of the present edition of the Royal Society of Chemistry flagship journal Chemical Science, provide new insights into the behavior of one of many key suspects of Alzheimer’s illness: a protein fragment known as amyloid beta, which clumps collectively into oligomers in the course of the early stages of the disease.
Researchers liken amyloid beta oligomers to a neurotoxic ‘bomb,’ inflicting the irreversible demise of neurons.
“To defuse the bomb, we have to know with a high level of accuracy which wires to cut and which to keep away from,” explains Giuseppe Melacini, senior creator and a professor in the Departments of Chemistry and at McMaster College.
“Because of this, it’s essential to map the structural features that differentiate what’s poisonous and what’s not. However, it is a challenging job because of the temporary and elusive nature of those oligomers,” he says.
Melacini, who has examined the underlying mechanisms of Alzheimer’s for almost 20 years, is working with a group of physicists, chemists, biologists and dementia specialists at McMaster, along with Maikel Rheinstädter, Richard Epand, Ryan Wylie and Chris Verschoor. Each group member brings a new perspective and practice to an examination which requires extremely specialized tools, along with wide-angle X-ray diffraction and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to perform the analysis at the atomic degree.