Columbia-Led Study Suggests Possible Common Thread Among Many Neurodegenerative Diseasese—Novel Fibril Revealed in Diseased Tissue—“Surprising and Provocative Result”

Take a cell-deep tour of a brain afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, and you will find minuscule clumps of protein that seem suspicious. Ever since the 1980s, when neuroscientists began identifying these protein tangles, they discovered that other brain diseases have their own tangled-protein signatures. “Each of these diseases has a unique protein tangle, or fibril, associated with it,” said Anthony Fitzpatrick, PhD, principal investigator at Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute.  “These proteins associated with diseases have their own shapes and behaviors,” added Dr. Fitzpatrick, also an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and a member of Columbia’s Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain. Published online on March 4, 2022 in Cell, the research by Dr. Fitzpatrick and an international team of 22 collaborators reveals a new fibril in diseased brains, one formed by a protein normally busy cleaning cells. The open-access Cell paper is titled, “Homotypic Fibrillization of TMEM106B Across Diverse Neurodegenerative Diseases.”

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