The role of collagens in muscle, cartilage, and skin are well understood. Now, researchers from the Gladstone Institute, Stanford, and UCSF have found that collagen VI can protect against amyloid-beta protein accumulation, one of the causative factors, and often observed affiliated conditions, for the start of Alzheimer's Disease.
It appears that neurons in the AD-prone brain of mice constitute a collagen factory, fabricating the substance which impacts changes in gene expression. Scientists led by Dr. Lennart Mucke and Dr. Jason Cheng led the research, which included participation from Dr. Tony Wyss-Coray at Stanford and Paolo Bonaldo at University of Padova, Italy. Amyloid appears to attach itself to neurons via the action of small toxic assemblies called oligomers.
However, neurons under threat from Alzheimer's secrete collagen VI, which blocks the adhesion of the amyloid, thus inhibiting amyloid accumulation. So far, the research has been limited to mouse models and cell cultures, but offers promise if the blocking action of collagen VI can be safely boosted to prevent disease progression or incipience and via replication in humans.