Can we delay the progression of Alzheimer's Disease?

Researchers from the Centre for Research in Biosciences are working with local charity BRACE on a project that may lead to earlier interventions that slow or even prevent progression of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).

Dr Myra Conway from UWE's Centre for Research in Biosciences is working with UWE PhD student and BRACE scholar, Jonathan Hull, Dr Katy Chalmers, Professor Seth Love and Dr Patrick Kehoe from Bristol's Frenchay Hospital on a three year project that aims to identify how proteins control glutamate in the brain. Glutamate build-up can cause brain cell toxicity leading to neural degeneration.

Pilot studies have already ascertained that people with AD experience an excessive production of brain specific enzymes responsible for controlling glutamate. This study provides an opportunity to improve our understanding of the chemistry of cellular deterioration that can occur in the brains of people with AD so that we can develop better treatments.

Dr Conway explains, “In healthy individuals, the brain uses a chemical called glutamate to control memory and learning. If the glutamate reaches high levels, however, it becomes toxic to the brain cells and may help cause dementia. There is a protein that controls glutamate levels and we need to find out what happens to this protein in the brains of people with dementia.

“Glutamate levels in the brain are controlled by a protein called the branched chain amniotransferase (BCAT). It is possible that regulation of the hBCAT proteins in patients with AD is directly linked to glutamate toxicity."

Speaking about the importance of the research Dr Conway says, “It is critical that we gain better insights into the pathogenesis of AD as it is estimated that there will be around 34 million people suffering from dementia worldwide by 2025. If we can ascertain how hBCAT controls glutamate during disease conditions we will come closer to understanding how to develop treatments that may delay or even prevent the progression of AD.”

For further information about this, please email Myra.conway@uwe.ac.uk.

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