UTSA Researchers Gain Alzheimer’s Insights

By expanding traditional analysis of the plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, researchers may uncover new treatment options.

By Jill AmentApril 3, 2018 11:09 am|

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. Right now about 5.5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, including some 380,000 Texans. Promising treatments have focused on reducing the build-up of sticky proteins in the brain, called plaques – but clinical trials have been disappointing.

Now new research at the University of Texas at San Antonio may offer insights as to why, and this discovery could change the way the search for a treatment goes forward.

Andrea Kelley is a post-doctoral fellow in chemistry at the College of Sciences at UTSA. She leads this research effort.

Kelley says that scientists believe a substance called amyloid beta damages nerve cells, causing Alzheimer’s disease. Previous research efforts aimed to create drugs that would remove amyloid beta from nerve cells in the human body.

“All those drugs have failed in human trials,” says Kelley. Researchers must find a new approach to treating the disease.

Previous researchers looked at post-mortem Alzheimer’s brain cells under microscopes and saw higher levels of amyloid beta than normal. Kelley’s team employs an additional research method – mass spectrometry – to gain a better understanding of all the compounds involved in damaging brain cells in Alzheimer’s patients.

Kelley’s team found that many more proteins and peptides contributed to damaging the nerve cells than were previously known. Her team “can start understanding the biological mechanisms and biological processes that are happening” in Alzheimer’s patients.

written by Christopher De Los Santos.