Alzheimer’s is a chronic brain disease responsible for two thirds of the world’s dementia. In these post-mortem samples from human brains, potential causes are highlighted in bright colours. Amyloid plaques (pictured in blue and pink) are clumps of 'junk' proteins that are hard for the body to break down – instead they gather like sticks in a dam, blocking the brain’s signals and causing nerve damage (shown in yellow). A developing plaque (left column) can be relatively harmless, but over decades it grows more dense, producing far more yellow-coloured destruction (middle column). Our brains have cells called microglia which act a bit like miniature trash compactors, squashing amyloid plaques into a less harmful form (right), but some hereditary disorders can cripple microglia making dementia more likely. Understanding the genes involved might allow treatments to bolster the microglia and help them to take out the amyloid trash.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.