Johanna Mayer

Can recycling garbage prevent Alzheimer’s disease?

Imagine a world where your trash keeps piling up, and there’s no efficient way to get rid of it. That’s what happens in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients. Alzheimer’s is a devastating condition affecting over 30 million people worldwide, with no cure in sight.

Alzheimer’s patients’ brains are filled with amyloid plaques, like massive garbage piles. Making things even worse, the cellular waste management system that is supposed to take care of that garbage is not working. We want to better understand the relationship between the recycling system of our brain cells and a protein responsible for amyloid plaques, “Alzheimer’s protein”.

To tackle this problem, we use microscopy to look inside cells. Imagine you’re watching a marathon, but it’s not athletes that are running; it’s the Alzheimer’s protein. We can follow this protein’s journey inside the cell and the recycling system helps cleaning up trash along the way. When we take away the cell’s garbage collection service, things get interesting.

The protein doesn’t follow its usual path and leaves more trash behind. If this continues over time, it could lead to overflowing garbage piles as seen in Alzheimer’s.

So, can recycling garbage prevent Alzheimer’s disease? It’s a promising possibility. By boosting the cellular recycling system, we may one day find a way to clean up the brain’s garbage and offer hope to Alzheimer’s patients worldwide.


Johanna Mayer, Karolinska Institutet

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Johanna Mayer is a researcher in Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institutet.

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