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Rensselaer Research Review Spring 2007 * Feature Articles Awards & Grants Recent Patents Accolades
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The Yin and Yang of Alzheimer's Disease

By Gabrielle DeMarco

Rensselaer researchers are challenging current thinking on the causes and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, offering a new hypothesis that could be the key to preventing this form of dementia. The researchers have found that a specific imbalance between two peptides may be the cause of the fatal neurological disease that affects more than five million people in the United States.

“We have found that two peptides, Aβ42 and Aβ40, must be in balance for normal function,” said Chunyu Wang, lead researcher and assistant professor of biology at Rensselaer. “They are like the Yin and Yang in Taiji, an ancient Chinese philosophy. When the peptides are produced in the correct proportions, the brain is healthy; but when that delicate balance is changed, pathological changes will occur in the brain and the person’s memories become hazy, leading to eventual dementia.”

Wang expects that this imbalance could be the main factor in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. If correct, the addition of Aβ40 may stop the disease’s development. Wang notes that further research is needed, but his preliminary results challenge the current mode of thinking about how these peptides contribute to the progression of the disease.

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The Yin and Yang of Alzheimer's Disease *
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