dementia, neuroscience, university of queensland

Dementia is a broad term that refers to the impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions.

Sparking Learning and Memory

Recent research from the University of Queensland suggests that clearing out cellular “protein clumps” may prevent the onset of certain forms of dementia.

The Queensland Brain Institute researchers made the finding after studying the link between the enzyme Fyn and the protein Tau in frontotemporal dementia.

The research team, led by Professor Frederic Meunier and Dr. Ramón Martnez-Mármol, discovered that Fyn, a key aspect of memory and learning, becomes extremely active when immobilized inside synapses, the connection hubs between neurons where neuronal communication takes place.

“Using super-resolution microscopy, we can now see these enzymes individually and in real-time, moving around randomly in live neurons,” Lead author Dr. Martínez-Mármol said.

The research team discovered that when these enzymes are activated, they transform into an opened structure (similar to a flower that blossoms) and slow down their movement. They then cluster or form clumps of proteins before refolding and dispersing to begin their cycle again.

“When they need to complete an action, the Fyn enzymes slow down and congregate at the synapse to initiate their function,” Dr. Martínez-Mármol said.

dementia, neuroscience, university of queensland

Trajectory map of individual Fyn molecules in hippocampal neurons. Credit: Queensland Brain Institute

Protein clusters key for learning and memory

This process naturally occurs thousands of times at the synapses between neurons and is required to sustain neuronal communication, which is the basis of learning and memory. Professor Frederic Meunier explained that Fyn must form these dynamic clusters in order for learning and memory to occur.

“But if you alter the balance in any way – you have too little, or too much clustering, you develop pathological issues,” Professor Meunier said.

The research follows the team’s earlier work, where they discovered Tau impacted a critical mechanism in memory function.

Fyn trajectories forming in a hippocampal dendritic spine. The cluster of Fyn is an important process of learning and memory but when associated with Tau, can become the precursor to dementia. Credit: University of Queensland

The team showed, using super-resolution microscopy, that when neurons are exposed to a mutant version of Tau present in frontotemporal dementia, the clustering of the Fyn enzyme is accentuated with the potential to trigger a debilitating chain reaction.

The association of Fyn and Tau necessary for the progression of different forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia, has been demonstrated by many laboratories around the world; however, the precise molecular mechanisms behind this pathological interaction were not known.

Toxic Tau creates a dementia spider web

Importantly, this mutant Tau has a higher propensity to form what is known as biomolecular condensates, which are small gel-like droplets within the cells. Some proteins, under specific conditions, tend to spontaneously aggregate, forming droplets that resemble oil spills in an aqueous solution. Tau is one of these proteins.

dementia, neuroscience, university of queensland

Dr. Ramón Martínez-Mármol. Credit: Queensland Brain Institute

If formed at the neuronal synapses, these Tau droplets create the perfect trap for Fyn molecules, keeping them highly immobile and accentuating their clustering and activation for longer.

“It’s like a spider web,” Dr. Martínez-Mármol said. “Normally, Fyn stops and moves, stops and moves

“In frontotemporal dementia, Fyn stops more as it becomes stuck in this gel-like structure. The droplets of Tau, therefore, attract additional Fyn proteins at the synapse.”

Professor Meunier said Tau biomolecular condensates could hold the key to reverting this toxic chain reaction.

“We believe they are the perfect target for future therapy to re-establish normal Fyn clustering dynamics,” Professor Meunier said.

“Theoretically, attacking the formation of toxic Tau biomolecular condensates should prevent the process of dementia from happening.”

Reference: “Fyn nanoclustering requires switching to an open conformation and is enhanced by FTLD-Tau biomolecular condensates” by Ramón Martínez-Mármol, Christopher Small, Anmin Jiang, Tishila Palliyaguru, Tristan P. Wallis, Rachel S. Gormal, Jean-Baptiste Sibarita, Jürgen Götz, and Frédéric A. Meunier, 18 October 2022, Molecular Psychiatry.
DOI: 10.1038/s41380-022-01825-y

The study was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

TECH NEWS RELATED

A nuclear-powered rocket could take astronauts to Mars in just 45 days

NASA’s manned mission to Mars would take seven months with the current technology we have for rockets. However, a nuclear-powered spacecraft could make that trek in just 45 days, according to news shared by the space agency. The design, which has been in the works in some fashion for ...

View more: A nuclear-powered rocket could take astronauts to Mars in just 45 days

Hubble’s stunning Butterfly Nebula image shows how our Sun will die

The sun will die, eventually. Like any star, the one at the center of our solar system is not meant to live forever. Eventually, it will use up all of the nuclear fuel in its core and explode, becoming a shell of what it once was. Now, Hubble’s various images ...

View more: Hubble’s stunning Butterfly Nebula image shows how our Sun will die

Hubble spotted a black hole snacking on the donut-shaped remains of a star

NASA’s Hubble space telescope spotted a black hole munching on the donut-shaped remains of a star in a galaxy nearly 300 million light-years away. The telescope was unable to capture any images of the donut-shaped remains, as the galaxy is too far away. But it was able to capture ...

View more: Hubble spotted a black hole snacking on the donut-shaped remains of a star

Scientists in Canada detected an 8 billion-year-old radio signal in a distant galaxy

Scientists have detected a record-breaking radio signal from atomic hydrogen in a very distant galaxy. The galaxy that the signal originated from is believed to have come from a galaxy at redshift z=1.29. Because of the galaxy’s immense distance, the emission line had shifted to a 48 cm line from ...

View more: Scientists in Canada detected an 8 billion-year-old radio signal in a distant galaxy

Green Bank Telescope captured the most detailed images of the Moon ever taken from Earth

Astronomers have taken the most detailed image of the Moon ever taken from Earth, and it was done with a device that uses less power than a household microwave oven. The Green Bank Telescope, which uses a low-power radar transmitter to capture data, along with the Very Long Baseline Array, ...

View more: Green Bank Telescope captured the most detailed images of the Moon ever taken from Earth

Polar Ignite 3 fitness watch review: Excellent battery, not great performance

While the likes of the Apple Watch may dominate the field in Apple-land, there’s still plenty of room for alternatives, regardless of smartphone platform. Many of these competitors, like Garmin and Polar, focus largely on health and fitness — and the latest of these is the new Polar Ignite 3. ...

View more: Polar Ignite 3 fitness watch review: Excellent battery, not great performance

Scientists think Jupiter’s moon Io may be home to alien life

The volcanic moon, which orbits the gas giant Jupiter, has long been written off as a possible home for alien life, as its extreme temperature and lava-covered surface make it wholly inhabitable. But, now scientists say that the volcanic moon could house life deep underground, perhaps even in the lava ...

View more: Scientists think Jupiter’s moon Io may be home to alien life

Nreal Air smart glasses review: A lightweight augmented reality experience

Mixed reality products are well and truly on the way. While the likes of the Meta Quest Pro perhaps isn’t the best bang for your buck, the Quest 2 is still a great product that makes virtual reality a whole lot more fun. But Meta isn’t the only player around ...

View more: Nreal Air smart glasses review: A lightweight augmented reality experience

Physicists have used entanglement to ‘stretch’ the uncertainty principle, improving quantum measurements

NASA already unveiled a successor to James Webb that will search for life on alien planets

Astronomers reveal the most detailed radio image yet of the Milky Way’s galactic plane

Revolutionary SBSP tech will try to beam solar power to Earth from space

Why does Nepal’s aviation industry have safety issues? An expert explains

Study claims the Milky Way is missing almost half of its regular matter

On a tiny Australian island, snakes feasting on seabirds evolved huge jaws in a surprisingly short time

They say we know more about the Moon than about the deep sea. They’re wrong

Astronomers found a rare star that was eclipsed for 7 years

A nearby galaxy merger may be hiding dual black holes that are 750 light-years apart

NASA’s Lunar Flashlight probe hits trouble on journey to the moon

AI is being used to figure out animal languages, forget Midjourney

OTHER TECH NEWS

Top Car News Car News