Alzheimer's disease may kill brain cells by provoking a futile attempt to replicate, a study says. If so, medicines to block that process might help in treatment.
Just what makes the cells try to divide isn't clear, but the study authors suggest a role for deposits called amyloid plaques, which are found in the brains of Alzheimer's victims. Many other scientists also blame those plaques for brain cell death in Alzheimer's.
The new work is presented in the April 15 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience by Karl Herrup and colleagues at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and the University Hospitals of Cleveland.
Inspecting brain tissue samples from autopsied Alzheimer's victims, they found evidence that many cells carried extra copies of chromosomes.
Cells normally duplicate their chromosomes before they divide, so that each daughter cell ends up with the right number. But in the case of Alzheimer's, it appears the cells never reach the dividing step. Instead, they die from the double load of chromosomes.
The researchers found no evidence of abnormal chromosome numbers in brain samples from healthy people.