BGU researchers have made progress determining causal factors resulting
in neurodegenerative diseases in seniors. Aging is the main risk factor for
developing a neurodegenerative disease. Therefore, understanding the aging
process can help us comprehend what goes wrong in age-related diseases. The
common consensus is that aging is the result of DNA damage accumulation,
essentially the body’s failure to implement processes to completely repair its
DNA over the years. Sporadic Alzheimer’s disease affects about 50% of people
over 90, suggesting that the causes are mainly age related.
One of the key
components in this DNA repair process is SIRT6. BGU researchers have determined
in mouse models that high levels of SIRT6 contribute to DNA repair while low
levels permit DNA damage accumulation. The researchers tested their hypothesis
regarding a series of neurodegenerative diseases that includes Alzheimer’s and
found that a decrease of the SIRT6 protein results in increased DNA damage and
preceded other markers of encroaching disease such as hyperphosphorylated Tau.
SIRT6 was nearly completely absent in Alzheimer’s disease patients.
These promising new
findings “Neuroprotective Functions for the Histone Deacetylase SIRT6” were published recently in Cell Reports.
Lead author Dr. Deborah Toiber (pictured above) of the Department of Life Sciences in the Faculty of Natural Sciences, “If a decrease in SIRT6 (and
lack of DNA repair) is the beginning of the chain that ends in
neurodegenerative diseases in seniors, then we should be focusing our research
on how to maintain production of SIRT6 and avoid the DNA damage that leads to
Toiber’s lab is one of
only a handful worldwide looking at the effects of SIRT6 in the brain, and
possibly the only one focusing on its connection to neurodegenerative diseases.
Born and raised in Mexico City, Toiber completed her post-doc at Harvard
University and joined the BGU faculty in recent years.
Toiber is the incumbent of the Zehava and Chezy Vered Career Development Chair in Alzheimer's and Neurodegenerative Diseases.
This work was supported
by the Israeli Ministry of Science, Technology and Space.