New ideas on cell recycling may shape treatment of Alzheimer's disease

12 Oct 2016
New ideas on cell recycling may shape treatment of Alzheimer's disease

The secret to treating Alzheimer’s diseases may lie within the lysosome, according to researchers from the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute. The research team, led by Dr Tim Sargeant, is exploring how the lysosomal network interacts with late-onset neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Understanding the link between Alzheimer’s disease and the lysosome

Dr Sargeant explained that his team is establishing a program of research that examines lysosomal function, using a range of different models.

“The lysosome is the recycling centre of the cell and is critically important for long-lived, terminally-differentiated neurons (nerve cells). The lysosomal network plays a crucial role in ensuring efficient degradation of dementia-related proteins,” he said.

“The lysosome can be compared to a recycling depot that resides in the cells.”

“Research has shown that the lysosome is extremely compromised in Alzheimer’s disease cases.”

“It’s possible that the lysosomes may be able to destroy the toxic molecules that are found in the brains of people who live with Alzheimer’s disease.”

Dementia; one of Australia’s biggest health burdens

Dr Sargeant added that Alzheimer’s disease is an incredibly important topic of research, because it’s the most common cause of dementia.

“With over 350,000 Australians currently living with dementia, and no treatment to stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, something needs to be done,” he said

Despite the fact that some treatments exist that can reduce symptoms, there is currently no medication that will delay age of onset or slow down the progression.

Our vision for treating Alzheimer’s disease

Our hope is that by determining how the lysosome works, we can begin to develop treatments that can help people with Alzheimer’s disease, improving the quality of life for people affected by this disease.


Dr Tim Sargeant is Group Leader of the Neurobiology Section of the Lysosomal Diseases Research Unit at SAHMRI and Affiliate of the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia.