Monday, April 16, 2012

DEEP BLUE SEA: Alzheimer's Disease 2

LET'S START WITH THE FOOTNOTES
For an excellent overview of Alzheimer's disease visit the Alzheimer's Association. Practically everything I talk about here can be found at their site or through their links, or via Merck online.


A brain scan of the super brain of a super shark.


WHERE WAS I?
Oh yes! That crazy b---- Dr. McCallister was trying to cure that crazy b---- of a disease, Alzheimer's, by genetically engineering sharks so that they grow larger brains (which makes them intelligent as a "side effect") and thereby making it easier to harvest some unnamed shark brain protein. By bathing "inactive" human brain cells with shark brain protein, they will "reactivate" and voila! Dr. McCallister will "end all that suffering with a single pill." I laughed so hard I scared the cats.


First of all, I don't know how brain cells are "inactive" unless they're dead. So if you reactivate inactive brain cells, does that mean the patient becomes a zombie? Are their clinical tests to determine normal zombie behavior as opposed to the impaired cognition, memory, and altered behaviors of zombies with Alzheimer's?


OMG! I just googled "zombies Alzheimer's" and look what I got! This guy's got imagination!
Hunter S. Zombie's blog links the zombie virus and Alzheimer's disease.


IT'S THE DESTRUCTION, STUPID
The brain cells in a patient affected by Alzheimer's are not inactivated, but weakened and ultimately destroyed. What causes this brain cell death? Protein! (Thunderclap!) Yes, I am being silly because practically every single structure in your body (cell walls, etc.) are made of proteins. Proteins are your friends, proteins are your enemies. The same goes for shark proteins, perhaps. They can be fickle.


Beta-amyloid plaques cluster around brain cells.


Two different proteins play a role in Alzheimer's disease. Beta-amyloid fragments (from a larger protein of brain cells) start to form plagues (outside the cells) that essentially clog up the synapses between neurons, trigger inflammatory reactions, and lead to cell death, hence McCallister's inactivation. 


A brain cell (top) has tracts made from microtubules (below left),
which lose integrity when tau proteins clump (below right.)


Tau proteins help form tracts (neurofibrillary for you trivia buffs) that transport substances along the branches of the nerve cell. In Alzheimer's the tau structure is abnormal, leading to the tangling of these proteins and destruction of the tracts. The cell can no longer transport nutrients the way it should and will weaken and die.


Russell Franklin (Samuel L. Jackson) won't live long
enough to suffer from Alzheimer's.


WHAT DID THEY GET RIGHT?
The cells our intrepid scientists are experimenting with are imaged as pyramidal cells, which are indeed the cells they should be studying. The only glitch is that these cells seem to have been stained to make them easier to see with a microscope, and they appear pretty healthy, not "inactivated" by Alzheimer's.



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