Scientists study how signals from muscles can protect from dementia

Scientists at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital are studying how signals sent from skeletal muscle affect the brain.

The team studied fruit flies and brain cell models called organoids, focusing on the signals that muscles send when stressed. They used immunostaining and confocal microscopy on the fruit fly brain and found that stress signals rely on an enzyme called Amyrel amylase and its product, the disaccharide maltose.

The scientists showed that mimicking the stress signals can protect the brain and retina from aging. The signals work by preventing the build-up of misfolded protein aggregates. Findings suggest that tailoring this signalling has the potential to help combat neurodegenerative conditions like age-related dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

“We found that a stress response induced in muscle could impact not only the muscle but also promote protein quality control in distant tissues like the brain and retina,” said Fabio Demontis, PhD, of St. Jude Developmental Neurobiology. “This stress response was actually protecting those tissues during aging.”

A report on this work has been published by Cell Metabolism.

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