An international team of researchers described a new pathway that promotes the differentiation of neurons. This mechanism is regulated by the presenilin gene (mutated in most cases of hereditary Alzheimer’s disease) through a protein that is involved in the development of cancer. The finding demonstrates that there is a common mechanism between neurodegeneration that occurs in Alzheimer’s and cell proliferation in cancer.
Age is the most important factor in the development of neurodegenerative and cancer. In addition, epidemiological studies indicate that there is an inverse relationship between having Alzheimer’s disease and cancer, although the mechanisms that connect both pathologies are unknown.
An international team of researchers led by Carlos Saura, from the Institut de Neurociències of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), has discovered an essential mechanism for the growth of axons in neuron, a key process for the correct development of the brain.
According to the study, published in the journal eLife, this mechanism requires presenilin, the main mutated gene in hereditary Alzheimer’s disease. Its malfunction in these patients is what causes the production of cerebral b-amyloid, characteristic of this pathology.
In this study, researchers demonstrate that presenilin is essential for regulating neurons during brain development, and interestingly through the EphA3 receptor, a protein involved in various cancers. The relevance of the study is that it demonstrates the existence for the first time of this new cellular mechanism that connects neurodegeneration and cancer.
“The discovery of this new signaling pathway is very relevant in the study of neurological diseases in which the morphology of the neuronal axon is altered. In addition, the implications of the study go beyond the brain since the mechanism involves EphA receptors that play a key role in cancer,” explains the study’s first author, Míriam Javier.
According to Saura, this research allows us to be optimistic in the development of common therapeutic strategies to combat neurological diseases and cancer.