Research Points to New Path for Understanding Alzheimer’s

A team of neuroscience and biochemistry researchers at Stony Brook University have announced a novel discovery that may provide a new path to research on Alzheimer’s disease and its cause.


Image of a cerebral blood vessel shown in red. The green deposits on this cerebral blood vessel are the vascular amyloid. The amyloid fibrils that comprise these deposits exhibit the newly found signature that is unique to vascular amyloid.

Their findings, which illustrate for the first time the difference between amyloid buildup in brain blood vessels and amyloid buildup around brain neurons, appeared November 21 in Nature Communications.

Lead investigator William Van Nostrand, PhD, a Professor in the Department of Neurosurgery, says the findings stem from collaborative work with Steven Smith, PhD, a Professor in the Department of Biochemistry & Cell Biology. They, along with colleagues, mapped out the structural signature of amyloid, which is a fragment of a larger protein, that accumulates in brain blood vessels and compared it to the known structure of amyloid that accumulate in plaque around brain neurons.

The team found that the subunits of the amyloid that accumulates in vessels line up uniquely and in alternating patterns, which presents in a near opposite pattern of amyloid buildup in plaque around neurons.

“This discovery may help guide us to the development of a new diagnostic tool or therapeutic intervention for dementia patients who display this vessel pathology,” summarized Dr. Van Nostrand.

They hypothesize that the unique structure of this brain blood vessel amyloid could promote different pathological responses, i.e., inflammation, which likely contributes differently to cognitive impairment and dementia than neuron amyloid.

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