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Published on: December 26, 2012
by The Times-Union:
Researchers at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville have uncovered a toxic cellular process by which a protein that maintains the health of neurons becomes deficient and can lead to dementia. The findings shed new light on the link between culprits implicated in two devastating neurological diseases: frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The study was published Dec. 10 in the online issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
There is no cure for frontotemporal dementia, a disorder that affects personality, behavior and language and is second only to Alzheimer’s disease as the most common form of early-onset dementia. While much research is devoted to understanding the role of each defective protein in these diseases, the team at Mayo Clinic took a new approach to examine the interplay between TDP-43, a protein that regulates messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) — biological molecules that carry the information of genes and are used by cells to guide protein synthesis — and sortilin, which regulates the protein progranulin.
The neuroscientists found that a lack of the protein TDP-43, long implicated in frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, leads to elevated levels of defective sortilin mRNA. The research team is the first to identify significantly elevated levels of the defective sortilin mRNA in autopsied human brain tissue of frontotemporal dementia/TDP cases, the most common subtype of the disease.
By improving the scientific community’s understanding of the biological processes leading to frontotemporal dementia, the researchers have also paved the way for the development of new therapies to prevent or combat the disease, says Leonard Petrucelli, chair of the Department of Neuroscience at Mayo Clinic in Florida, who led the research.
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