Neurotransmitters are chemicals involved in signalling in the brain and are 'picked up' by receptors on brain cells. Scientists at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona have found a new receptor in the brain and believe it may play a part in the development of Alzheimer's disease. The receptor is in a part of the brain called the basal forebrain that plays a critical role in memory and learning and is one of the first parts of the brain to degenerate when people get Alzheimer's. The receptors - called nicotinic receptors - 'pick up' a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine and are much more sensitive than other receptors to being blocked by a protein called beta-amyloid peptide (AB) which is closely linked to Alzheimer's disease. The researchers now plan to start searching for drugs that can keep these receptors active even when there is AB around or block the effects of AB on the receptors.
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