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Science Saturday: In neurodegenerative diseases, Mayo Clinic research finds shared gene patterns, widespread damage

3d image illustrating synapse connections in the brain

Damage to brain cells in two separate neurodegenerative diseases — Alzheimer's disease and progressive supranuclear palsy — is not limited to specific parts of the brain and these diseases share a pattern of gene alterations within the brain, according to researchers at Mayo Clinic, the University of Florida and other collaborating organizations.

The researchers say this finding suggests the neurodegenerative diseases may have the same underlying disease links. The finding, which is published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, is based on 455 brain samples and the measurements of more than 10,000 genes.

The team used RNA sequencing with patient samples from the Mayo Clinic Brain Bank. They compared gene expressions among brains of people diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, those with the rare movement disorder progressive supranuclear palsy, and from older people who died without either disease. The researchers report that altered gene expression patterns were similar between the two diseases in areas of the brain that show no evidence of degeneration and areas of the brain that have severe degeneration.

"Our research tells us that the impact of Alzheimer's disease on brain function may actually affect the entire brain — not just diseased areas," says Nilüfer Ertekin-Taner, M.D., Ph.D., a neuroscientist and behavioral neurologist at Mayo Clinic. "What we're learning is that we need to rethink our approach to Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases so that we're not only targeting a specific pathway in the brain when it comes to therapeutic possibilities. Rather, we must consider a multitude of ways to attack these diseases at their earliest stage in the disease process and improve brain function."

Read the rest of the article on the Discovery's Edge blog.


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