Process Typically Linked to Physics Helps Researchers Better Understand Neurodegeneration

The same process that causes dew drops to form on blades of grass appears to play an important role in FTD and other neurodegenerative diseases, according to new clues derived from physics.

That process, known as phase transition, is used in physics to describe the ability of water vapor to condense into liquid water or freeze into ice. But researchers have uncovered clues that suggest a similar process allows brain cells to constantly reorganize their inner machinery, and when interrupted, can contribute to the buildup of toxins associated with neurodegenerative diseases including FTD, ALS and Alzheimer’s disease. This “glitch” is thought to prevent healthy cell structures from transitioning from one phase to the next, which in turn contributes to the accumulation of plaques and tangles in malfunctioning brain cells.

Researchers describe this phenomenon in a recent interview with NPR, highlighting how advancements in the past decade have helped scientists to better realize the role phase transition plays in neurodegeneration. Understanding the mechanisms behind these processes could help researchers develop treatments for not only neurodegenerative diseases, but also other illness including cancer.

You can read more about the research here.