For decades, researchers have been baffled about Hirano bodies – extremely tiny objects found in nerve cells of people suffering from conditions such as Alzheimer’s, mad cow and Lou Gehrig’s diseases.
They weren’t sure if these structures helped cause the conditions or appeared after onset of the disease and had some other role.
Now, in research at the University of Georgia, a cellular biologist and his colleagues have found that Hirano bodies may play a protective role in the progression of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
And to find out why this may be happening, they have developed the world’s first transgenic mouse model that has Hirano bodies, which will open new frontiers on how these poorly understood structures may be involved with some of humankind’s most difficult-to-treat diseases.
“This work gives us a first view of the possible effects of Hirano bodies,” said Marcus Fechheimer, Josiah Meigs Professor of cellular biology at UGA.
“Now we know that Hirano bodies do not kill cells and are not toxic to mice. This new model will allow us to ask whether Hirano bodies have any effect on progression of disease in the brain.”
While the research offers no cure for diseases such as Lou Gehrig’s and mad cow, it does create a new area of research into understanding how these diseases operate in the human body and why they are so difficult to treat.
The study has been published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.