Alzheimer’s disease is most probably caused by a build-up of a protein called amyloid-ß in brain cells. This abnormal amyloid is produced when amyloid precursor protein (APP) gets broken down by enzymes. The normal role of APP in the brain, and therefore its role in Alzheimer's disease, has remained elusive.
In a Letter to this week's Nature (Vol. 414, No. 6864, 06 Dec 2001), Lawrence Goldstein at the University of California, San Diego, and colleagues report that APP protein seems to be involved in transport within nerve cells, a vital function that shunts cellular materials along the length of a nerve cell.
Because APP is involved in transport when amyloid-ß forms in Alzheimer's patients, it may interfere with normal transport of materials in the cell. This could lead to cell death, as seen in brain tissue affected by Alzheimer's, the authors suggest.
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