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A. Working To Preserve Precious Brain Cells

Narrator: This is Science Today. When brain cells die due to stresses including head injury, aging and strokes, the result can be devastating, because neurons in the brain are largely irreplaceable. Dr. Lennart Mucke, a neurology professor at the University of California, San Francisco, discovered that a mutant form of a common brain molecule called amyloid precursor protein, or APP, can trigger a cell death switch.

Mucke: You can expose nerve cells to injurious factors, but if there is expression of the normal APP protein, that is kept under control so the cells don't die. The nerve cells that expressed the mutant APP, when they were exposed to challenges, they basically underwent a suicide process and died.

Narrator: Mucke plans to study this process further.

Mucke: The long-term goal is to see if we can come up with agents that could be given to patients to prevent cell death.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.