Most human cells are able to repair damage by dividing at wounds.
But mature nerve cells (neurons) in our brain are different. If they attempt division, they will likely die – and this is what happens during brain injury, or in conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). Now new research led by the University of Plymouth has uncovered a pathway that has shed new light on how these divisions may be triggered.
The research, published today in Cell Reports, has focused on intracellular structures called microtubules – which are found in most animal cells, and can be damaged by a build-up of a protein called Tau in the brain during AD.
The study was conducted in fruit flies, with comparison to postmortem brain samples of AD patients.
The paper shows that when the microtubules of neural cells in fruit flies are damaged, division is triggered via activating the small signalling kinases, Tak1 and Ik2. Strikingly, activation of these molecules can also be seen in AD brains.