Groundbreaking study was recently published in Nature Neuroscience

An unprecedented study on the selective vulnerability at the level of individual neurons and with the mapping of the first cells affected by Alzheimer's disease was published in the scientific journal Nature Neuroscience, on January 27th, 2021, under the title "Markers of vulnerable neurons identified in Alzheimer disease". The work was carried out by a group of researchers, composed of five Brazilians of the Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de São Paulo (FMUSP), in partnership with scientists of the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), from the United States of America.

Senior author, Professor Lea Tenenholz Grinberg, of the Department of Pathology at FMUSP and associated with the Department of Neurology at UCSF, says that "some neurons succumb to the disease years before the first symptoms appear, while others seem impervious to the degeneration that surrounds them and endure until the final stages of the disease. It has become a pressing issue for us to understand the specific factors that make some cells selectively vulnerable to Alzheimer's desease, while others prove able to resist it for years". 

"The initial belief was that once these toxic proteins associated with Alzheimer disease accumulate in some neuron, it is always 'game over' for the cell, but our laboratory has found that this is not the case," said Professor Lea T. Grinberg.

During the research, brain tissues of people who died at different stages of Alzheimer's disease were studied, obtained from the FMUSP Biobank for Aging Studies and the UCSF Neurodegenerative Disease Brain Bank, with nuclear RNA techniques and quantitative neuropathology analysis.  

"The findings support the idea that protein accumulation is a critical driver of neurodegeneration, but not all cells are equally susceptible. We plan to continue studying selective vulnerability factors, a new approach that may direct toward developing therapies to slow down or prevent the spread of Alzheimer’s desease," explains Professor Lea T. Grinberg. 

Participating as co-authors in the study were FMUSP researchers who are part of the Biobank for Aging Studies, the Cardiovascular Pathology Laboratory (LIM 22), the Aging Laboratory (LIM 66) and also the Death Verification Service of the Capital of USP. They are: Prof. Carlos Augusto Gonçalvez Pasqualucci, Prof. Claudia Kimie Suemoto, Prof. Renata Elaine Paraizo Leite, Prof. Roberta Diehl Rodriguez, and also Helmut Heinsen, Visiting Professor at FMUSP, from the University of Würzburg, Germany. In addition, UCSF researchers Prof. Martin Kampmann, as senior co-author, Antonia Piergies, Rene Sit, Michelle Tan, Norma Neff, Song Hua Li, Alexander Ehrenberg, William W. Seeley, and Salvatore Spina collaborated.

Read the full article published by Nature Neuroscience at