Researchers focus on cell membranes to develop Alzheimer's treatments

Mar 23, 2017

A discovery made by Ayyalusamy Ramamoorthy, a research professor at the University of Michigan, could prove useful in treating Alzheimer’s.

Ramamoorthy’s research shows that parts of neuron cell membranes are vulnerable to a protein that collects in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.

The protein, known as amyloid-beta, collects in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease. Thinner parts of neuronal membranes provide access for amyloid-beta.

“From our study it is clear that the cell membrane is the hot spot where amyloid-beta becomes crazy," Ramamoorthy said.

The protein then punctures and kills cells—effectively eliminating the patient's ability to retain memories.

These thin spots are built from short fatty acid chains, while thicker parts are formed with long fatty acid chains.

"The thickness of cell membranes is very important not only for Alzheimer's disease, but also for diabetes and other aging-related diseases." Ramamoorthy said

Ramamoorthy’s team believe that the formation of lipids with short chains, which is caused by aging or other physiological means that result in Alzheimer's, can promote cell death from the accumulation of amyloid-beta.

"These findings could be significant in the potential development of compounds to treat the aging-related diseases," Ramamoorthy said.