A new area of the brain is involved in the mechanisms behind the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The result of the latest research, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, could revolutionize the way Alzheimer’s disease is treated and also represent a significant step in the way this neurological disease is diagnosed. We talk about this issue with Professor Michela Matteoli, head of the Neurocenter at Humanitas and director of the Institute of Neuroscience of the CNR.
The study and its results published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease
For the first time in a patient study, Italian scientists discovered the key role of a small brain region, the ventral tegumental area, in Alzheimer’s disease. If this area (which is responsible for releasing an important ‘messenger’ molecule of the brain, dopamine) works poorly, it affects the ‘center’ of memory, the hippocampus, and consequently the ability to learn and remember. A note in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease: the discovery could revolutionize both early diagnosis and treatment of this form of dementia by shifting attention to drugs that stimulate dopamine release. The study was written by Annalena Venneri, of the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN) in Great Britain, who explains: “Our discovery indicates that if the tegmental-ventral area (VTA) does not produce the correct amount of dopamine for the hippocampus, it no longer works efficiently and memory formation is compromised. This is the first study in the world to demonstrate this link in humans.
The comment of Humanitas
“The study just published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease confirms on man what was already demonstrated a year ago on preclinical models by a group of researchers of the Biomedical Campus and Irccs Santa Lucia and published in Nature Communication – said Prof. Matteoli. The researchers, led by Prof. D’Amelio, had discovered, in a mouse, a relationship between the death of neurons in the ventral tegment area, where dopamine is produced, and the malfunction of the hippocampus, the area in charge of the formation of memories. These two studies have paved the way for clinical trials to assess whether ‘agonist-dopaminergic’ drugs, which promote the activation of dopamine pathways, are able to stimulate brain plasticity and thus the preservation of cognitive faculties when administered to patients with Alzheimer’s disease.