Complicating Alzheimer's

Much of the Alzheimer's research community is focused on removing the characteristic buildup of amyloid-beta from the brain. Amyloid and Alzheimer's are linked, so remove the amyloid. As the tools of biotechnology improve, however, matters begin to look more complicated. For example: "recent research demonstrates that amyloid-beta is also necessary to maintain proper brain functioning. ... Without amyloid-beta, a normal product of cellular metabolism, one's ability to learn and remember could be profoundly damaged, so drugs currently in development to eliminate amyloid-beta could be rendered obsolete. ... By studying synapses in brain slices of healthy mice and in neuronal networks growing in vitro, [researchers] determined that there is an optimal amount of amyloid-beta needed to keep the neurons working well. ... if this precise balance is even slightly disturbed, the effectiveness of information transfer between neurons is greatly impaired. ... amyloid-beta peptide, believed to be toxic, regulates the type of information that neurons transfer."



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