Scientists at Penn State University have stumbled upon an inhibitory neurotransmitter called GABA that could be a new target for Alzheimer’s drugs.
The discovery has the potential for development as a novel diagnostic tool for Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common form of dementia and one for which no cure has yet been found.
“The research in our lab is now focused on finding new drug targets and on developing new approaches for diagnosing and treating Alzheimer’s disease,” said lead researcher Gong Chen, a professor of biology at Penn State.
Researchers recently discovered an abnormally high concentration of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA in the brains of deceased Alzheimer’s patients.
He and his team found the neurotransmitter in deformed cells called “reactive astrocytes” in a structure in the core of the brain called the dentate gyrus.
Chen’s team found that the GABA neurotransmitter was drastically increased in the deformed versions of the normally large, star-shaped “astrocyte” cells.
“Billions of dollars were invested in years of research leading up to the clinical trials of [plaque-clearing] Alzheimer’s drugs, but they failed the test after they unexpectedly worsened the patients’ symptoms,” said Chen.
“The research behind those drugs had targeted the long-recognized feature of Alzheimer’s brains: the sticky build-up of the amyloid protein known as plaques, which can cause neurons in the brain to die.
The findings are published in the journal Nature. Click here