How Stress Could Actually Help Cure Dementia and Alzheimer’s

While proteins help build and repair muscle, keep us safe from disease, and dispose of chemical waste, they can also turn into dry piles at times. When that happens, they cause disease rather than prevent it. One common way this happens is when proteins are not folded into their correct shape due to genetic fluke infection or the aging process. For the millions of Americans living with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and dementia, these folded proteins clump together and wreak havoc on the brain, taking away healthy lives. of the patient. Science has yet to find an effective cure – but we may be closer to a cure than we think.

Researchers in Europe have discovered a mechanism that triggers cells to repair themselves with misfolded proteins, according to a new study. New research published on Friday in the magazine Nature Communications. Activator? Its stress.

Edward Avezov, a cell biologist at the University of Cambridge and the study’s principal investigator, said in a press release. “There are many reasons why this could happen, such as when [cells] are producing antibodies in response to the infection. “

Normally in healthy people, any protein that is misfolded is captured by the cell’s quality control system. But in neurodegenerative diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s, misfolding proteins are completely ignored. In the area where proteins are formed in cells called the endoplasmic reticulum, chaos occurs when these folded proteins accumulate and stick around for too long. This can eventually lead to this type of brain damage in patients with neurodegenerative diseases. Unfortunately, current pharmaceutical drugs have had limited success in wholesale elimination of these misfolded proteins, and most treatments focus on alleviating symptoms.

Since the endoplasmic reticulum makes about a third of all proteins found in the body, the researchers wanted to see if stressing it with chemicals or heat resulted in it cracking under pressure and creating folded proteins. However, in fact they found the exact opposite.

“We were surprised to find that emphasizing the cell actually removed the aggregates – not by degrading them or clearing them, but by unraveling the clumps, potentially,” says Avezov. capabilities that allow them to reproduce accurately,” says Avezov.

The researchers also discovered a key to this mechanism: heat shock proteins. These proteins are a cell’s first line of defense when the body is exposed to stressful situations such as elevated temperatures. Avezov suggests that these molecular protectors are the reason for the link between saunas and heat therapy to lower dementia risk.

“Recently there have been several studies of people in Scandinavian countries who regularly use saunas, suggesting that they may have a lower risk of dementia,” he said. “One possible explanation for this is that this mild stress activates higher activity of [heat shock proteins]help correct tangled proteins”.

Don’t rush to build your own outdoor Swedish sauna. We still don’t know how to exploit this mechanism without stressing the cells, which could cause more damage than good. Creating an effective treatment would take scientists years of research and clinical trials. But at least, we are unraveling the unknowns about the folded proteins and getting answers that will help patients in the future.

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