You wake up one morning and don’t know where you are. You look around, trying to place your surroundings. “Oh, that’s right,” you think. “I stayed in a hotel last night.” You get up and get ready for the day.
Unfortunately, for some, that cloud of confusion doesn’t go away because of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. More than 5 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s, and that number is only rising.
The key to Alzheimer’s
Dr. Kyoungtae Kim, associate dean of the College of Natural and Applied Sciences at Missouri State University, is taking the first step to overcome Alzheimer’s by focusing on a protein called dynamin in yeast and the human body.
“Inside your body, cells are what’s considered a mega city, probably bigger than a mega city when you compare it to human society. Within the cell we have a lot of stations, like membrane bound organelles,” Kim, professor of biology, said.
He explains that there are round-trip traffic pathways between the hundreds of stations.
“If you have a cell that was expressing or harboring some mutant form of police officer regulating traffic, what happens? Pandemonium,” he said, noting that in this example, the police officer would be a protein. “If your cell is expressing a mutant form of traffic protein such as dynamin, then maybe you actually end up with Alzheimer’s disease.”
Kim wants to identify which part of the dynamin is responsible for this change. Though his study is on yeast, he believes his findings could be built upon and inspire a major medical breakthrough.
“In his research, Kim studies these events in yeast, which is an ideal model organism to study how our own cells move molecules,” said Dr. Paul Durham, director of Missouri State’s Center for Biomedical and Life Sciences and distinguished professor of biology. “His findings have implications for understanding several human disease processes including several neurological diseases.”