Thursday, January 31, 2008

New Alzheimer's theory gains NASA backing

More cool stuff from NASA...I didn't know they did this kind of research...

A controversial new theory on the origins of Alzheimer's has divided opinion in the medical world, but if proved right could 'revolutionise' treatment.

Dr Shaohua Xu of Florida's Space Life Sciences Laboratory at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and of Florida Tech has earned a $150,000 grant from Space Florida and a $30,000 cash injection from NASA's Aerospace Medicine and Occupational Health Branch to test his theory.

Conventional wisdom dictates that when tau protein joins together to form tangled fibres at the start of Alzheimer's, each tau molecule join to the fibre's tip. However, Xu has a different idea."

We find that it is a three-step process," he said. "First, molecules of the tau protein cluster together into spheres, each almost the same size. Next, the spheres join together in linear chains like beads on a string. In the third stage the beads merge together to form a uniform filament identical to those found in the brains of patients with the disease."

Using atomic force microscopy, Xu has been using purified protein to synthesis the fibres into their various forms. He first developed his theory over a decade ago. "

Shaohua's theory is revolutionary; his evidence is overwhelming. The medical implications are beyond anything in my experience," said advocate Dr Daniel Woodard at KSC, who was the first medical doctor to review Xu's work."

This could be the most important biomedical discovery ever made at Kennedy Space Center," echoed NASA physician David Tipton, chief of the Aerospace Medicine and Environmental Health Branch at KSC.

link to full article

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