By comparing the brain tissue of individuals who suffered from the disease with that of laboratory models, the researchers found differences in the blood vessels which formed the brain's blood-brain barrier [BBB] that regulates what passes between the brain and the bloodstream, cleaning the brain of neurotoxins.
"We have shown that distinct components of these blood vessels termed tight junctions are altered in Alzheimer's disease. We think that this alteration could be an entrained mechanism to allow for the clearance of toxic amyloid-beta from the brain in those living with Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. James Keaney of the university's School of Genetics and Microbiology, who led the study.
The results of the latest study are the first to examine the movement of amyloid-beta across the pathway between the cells of the blood-brain barrier, and identify the membrane proteins which could clear brain amyloid-beta across the barrier, and form a therapy for Alzheimer's disease.
"These findings also indicate that controlled modulation of tight junction components at the BBB can enhance the clearance of amyloid-beta from the brain," write the scientists in their paper, published in the journal Science Advances.
"Given the recent advances in clinical trials of anti-amyloid beta antibodies, we hope our findings may lead to improved and adjunctive forms of therapy for this devastating condition," said Trinity's Assistant Professor in Genetics Matthew Campbell, adding that further research will now concentrate on ways of clearing the protein across the barrier, and out of the brain.