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A novel approach for integrative studies on neurodegenerative diseases in human brains.

  • Author(s): Theofilas, Panos
  • Polichiso, Livia
  • Wang, Xuehua
  • Lima, Luzia C
  • Alho, Ana TL
  • Leite, Renata EP
  • Suemoto, Claudia K
  • Pasqualucci, Carlos A
  • Jacob-Filho, Wilson
  • Heinsen, Helmut
  • Brazilian Aging Brain Study Group
  • Grinberg, Lea T
  • et al.

Despite a massive research effort to elucidate Alzheimer's disease (AD) in recent decades, effective treatment remains elusive. This failure may relate to an oversimplification of the pathogenic processes underlying AD and also lack of understanding of AD progression during its long latent stages. Although evidence shows that the two specific neuropathological hallmarks in AD (neuronal loss and protein accumulation), which are opposite in nature, do not progress in parallel, the great majority of studies have focused on only one of these aspects. Furthermore, research focusing on single structures is likely to render an incomplete picture of AD pathogenesis because as AD involves complete brain networks, potential compensatory mechanisms within the network may ameliorate impairment of the system to a certain extent. Here, we describe an approach for enabling integrative analysis of the dual-nature lesions, simultaneously, in all components of one of the brain networks most vulnerable to AD. This approach is based on significant development of methods previously described mainly by our group that were optimized and complemented for this study. It combines unbiased stereology with immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence, making use of advanced graphics computing for three-dimensional (3D) volume reconstructions. Although this study was performed in human brainstem and focused in AD, it may be applied to the study of any neurological disease characterized by dual-nature lesions, in humans and animal models. This approach does not require a high level of investment in new equipment and a significant number of specimens can be processed and analyzed within a funding cycle.

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