NGF molecule may be a catalyst in neuron degeneration
Monday 12 March 2012
Researchers at Montreal's McGill University have discovered that the Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) molecule may play an important part in neuron degeneration.
NGF is responsible for generating signals that maintain healthy cholinergic neurons - a subset of brain cells that are particularly sensitive to Alzheimer's disease - throughout a person's lifetime.
The team led by Dr. Claudio Cuello focused on the process by which NGF is released in the brain, matures to an active form and is ultimately degraded. They also looked at how this process is altered in Alzheimer's disease in rat models.
Treatment of healthy adult rats with a drug that blocks the maturation of active NGF led to AD-like losses of cholinergic neurons, which result in cognitive impairments. However, when treated with a drug to prevent degradation of active NGF, the numbers of cholinergic contacts increased significantly.
"Part of the difficulty in understanding this pathway has been due to the technical challenges associated with differentiating the active and inactive forms of NGF" said Dr. Simon Allard, postdoctoral fellow at McGill. "Our proposed manipulations are different from existing therapies as they aim to protect neurons from degeneration."