A group of researchers at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Japan, discovered a new protein that is involved in Alzheimer’s disease. This protein, called CAPON, already known because it is linked to risk factors for other psychiatric disorders, facilitates the connection between the two known culprits of Alzheimer’s disease: amyloid plaques and Tau proteins.
The interactions between amyloid plaques and Tau proteins cause the death of brain cells, the first symptoms of dementia.
In their work, published in Nature Communications, the researchers explain how they identified the CAPON gene in the brain of a mouse, specifically they found the accumulation of CAPON in the hippocampus, the area of the brain that is very important for memory. In the presence of amyloid plaques, the accumulation of CAPON was even greater.
By creating an artificial over-expression of CAPON in the brain of mice, researchers found that mice showed significant levels of neurodegeneration and hippocampal shrinkage.
Takaomi Saido, a RIKEN researcher and one of the authors of the study, states in relation to this discovery: “Neurodegeneration is complex but we think CAPON is an important mediator between amyloid-β and cell death. Breaking this link with a drug is a promising way to treat Alzheimer’s disease.”