Israeli researchers have developed a joint treatment for autistic and Alzheimer’s patients, Tel Aviv University (TAU) said Tuesday.
In a study led by TAU researchers and published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, the team discovered a high overlap in Alzheimer’s genes undergoing mutations with genes that impact autism and intellectual disability.
This overlap was unveiled by comparing samples taken from Alzheimer’s patients after their death to previous findings on autism-related mutations.
It was found that about 40 percent of the mutations in the disease-causing genes identified in Alzheimer’s patients have also been detected in children with autism and intellectual disability.
Then, the researchers focused on mutations in the ADNP gene, which has an important role in brain development in the fetus and in protecting the structure of the brain nerve cells.
This gene causes the ADNP syndrome, which leads to autism and intellectual disability, and is also linked to Alzheimer’s, as its function is linked to the Tau protein that is damaged in Alzheimer’s patients.
This protein binds to the nerve cell skeleton in the brain and stabilizes the cell structure.
Using genetic engineering, the researchers found that the mutation in the ADNP caused impairment of Tau attachment to the nerve cell skeleton, resulting in a weakening of the cell skeleton.
Finally, the team found that treatment with a shortened segment of ADNP protein, called NAP, protects the nerve cell skeletal structure from the harmful effect of the mutations, and therefore may help Alzheimer’s and autistic patients.