Washington, December 6 (ANI): A multi-institution team of British researchers has found that that the brain's circuitry can survive longer than previously in patients with ageing-related conditions like Alzheimer's disease.
Researchers at the Babraham Institute near Cambridge, the Alzheimer's Research Trust, and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) say that Alzheimer's disease causes nerve cells in the brain to die, resulting in problems with memory, speech and understanding.
They claim that their study has shown how nerve cells lose the ability to communicate with each other, before deteriorating further and eventually dying.
"We've all experienced how useless a computer is without broadband. The same is true for a nerve cell (neuron) in the brain whose wiring (axons and dendrites) has been lost or damaged," said Dr. Michael Coleman, the project's lead researcher.
"Once the routes of communication are permanently down, the neuron will never again contribute to learning and memory, because these 'wires' do not re-grow in the human brain," he added.
The researchers say that this wiring of the brain is maintained by the each one of the billions of nerve cells that continuously shuttles hundreds of proteins and intracellular packages out along its axons and dendrites, and back again.
They add that this miniature transport system undergoes a steady decline during healthy ageing.
According to them, axons swell dramatically in Alzheimer's disease, ballooning to 10 or 20 times their normal diameter.
The team say that these swellings disrupt transport but perhaps not completely, and enough material gets through the swellings to keep more distant parts of the axon alive probably for a year or more.
The researchers believe that a successful therapy applied during this early period may not only halt the symptoms, but also allow a degree of functional recovery.
"We've been able to look at whole nerve cells affected by Alzheimer's," said Dr. Michael Coleman.
"For the first time we have shown that supporting parts of nerve cells are alive, and we can now learn how to intervene to recover connections. This is very important for treatment because in normal adult life, nerve cell connections constantly disappear and reform, but can only do so if the supporting parts of the cell remain. Our results suggest a time window in which damaged connections between brain cells could recover under the right conditions," he added.
A research article on the study has been published in the journal Brain. (ANI)