Magazine article USA TODAY

Cell Death Remains Key to Alzheimer's

Magazine article USA TODAY

Cell Death Remains Key to Alzheimer's

Article excerpt

Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia, currently affects 4,000,000 Americans--a number expected to increase to 14,000,000 by 2050. Not surprisingly, researchers are racing to understand the disease so that effective therapies can be developed. To create a drug that could arrest or prevent Alzheimer's, scientists must first understand what is causing the death of neurons. Brain tissue samples of Alzheimer's victims reveal extensive neuronal cell death, as well as two abnormal pathological structures known as "neurofibrillary tangles" and "amyloid plaques."

A new way of looking at the disease is described by University of California, Santa Barbara, scientists Leslie Wilson (director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center) and Stuart Feinstein (director of the Neuroscience Research Institute). Both also are faculty members in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. Wilson has done extensive work on understanding microtubules, long thin filaments that serve as a "cytoskeleton" in all cells, similar in many ways to our own bones. However, unlike our bones, microtubules are dynamic structures, constantly growing and shortening. Proper control of them is essential for cells to perform their many tasks and remain alive. …

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