A recent study on the differences between healthy brains and those affected by Alzheimer’s disease has revealed a brain map, now freely available online for any scientist. A team of researchers from the University of Auckland, Bristol, Liverpool and Manchester successfully published the most comprehensive map of the Alzheimer’s brain.
Learn more about the Alzheimer’s brain map, the study and its impact on future Alzheimer’s research.
The study, published in the journal Communications Biology, was funded by the Alzheimer’s Research UK and maps the relative levels of more than 5,825 different proteins across six regions of the brain, generating a total of a staggering 24,024 data points.
Study leader, Dr. Richard Unwin from the University of Manchester said on Twitter, “This database provides a huge opportunity for dementia researchers around the world to progress and to follow-up new areas of biology and develop new treatments. It could also help validate observations seen in animal or cell disease models in humans. It’s very exciting to be able to make these data public so scientists can access and use this vital information.”
The samples, donated for research by patients at the New Zealand Brain Bank in Auckland, revealed changes in the cerebellum, previously thought to be unaffected by Alzheimer’s. Additionally, the brain regions in the study included more heavily affected areas like the hippocampus, entorhinal cortex, and cingulate gyrus.
The study also gave researchers more insight into the pathology of the disease, which starts at the hippocampus and spreads through pathways in the brain. Dr. Unwin noted, “We think that the changes we see in the regions affected later on represent early disease changes, present before cells die.”
The team identified 129 protein changes all present in the areas of the brain studied and 44 of those protein changes were not previously associated with Alzheimer’s. This is great news for Alzheimer’s drug developers as they target those protein changes for early intervention treatments.
Dr. Rosa Sancho, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, says, “By studying thousands of individual proteins, this exciting research has generated a detailed molecular map of changes that get underway in the brain in Alzheimer’s disease. Making this information freely available online will help researchers to navigate the complex and changing environment of the brain in Alzheimer’s and identify processes that could be targeted by future drugs. There are over half a million people in the UK living with Alzheimer’s and there are currently no treatments that can slow or stop the disease from progressing in the brain. Pioneering research like this is driving progress towards new breakthroughs that will change people’s lives.”
Do you think an Alzheimer’s brain map is a step in the right direction towards a cure? Why or why not? We’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments below.