Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a devastating disease that affects millions of people worldwide, but there is no cure yet. One of the challenges of developing new treatments for AD is that scientists have been unable to easily study the disease in mice because mice do not develop the same symptoms as humans.
In an exciting new study published in Science Magazine, Dr. Sriram Balusu and his team of researchers have developed a new way to study AD in mice that is much more similar to how it occurs in people. They accomplished this feat by putting human neurons into mice that had been genetically engineered to have the cellular features of AD. Using this new model, Dr. Balusu’s team found that AD causes neurons to accumulate high levels of a molecule called MEG3. MEG3 can kill neurons through a process called necroptosis, which is when the cell membrane breaks down and the cell’s contents leak out.
The study demonstrated that blocking MEG3 prevents neuron death, providing new possibilities for the development of drugs to treat AD. Moreover, the fact that mice are only affected by AD upon the implantation of human neurons implies that there are molecular differences that protect mice from AD. Further research into these differences may lead to additional insights on how to protect neurons from degeneration.
This study was led by Sriram Balusu, a postdoctoral researcher at VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain & Disease Research and the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) in Leuven, Belgium.
Managing Correspondent: Marwa Osman
Press article: Scientists discover how brain cells die in Alzheimer’s (BBC News)
Original article: MEG3 activates necroptosis in human neuron xenografts modeling Alzheimer’s disease (Science)