The progression of many neurodegenerative diseases is thought to be driven by the template-directed misfolding, seeded aggregation and cell–cell transmission of characteristic disease-related proteins, leading to the sequential dissemination of pathological protein aggregates. Recent evidence strongly suggests that the anatomical connections made by neurons — in addition to the intrinsic characteristics of neurons, such as morphology and gene expression profile — determine whether they are vulnerable to degeneration in these disorders. Notably, this common pathogenic principle opens up opportunities for pursuing novel targets for therapeutic interventions for these neurodegenerative disorders. We review recent evidence that supports the notion of neuron–neuron protein propagation, with a focus on neuropathological and positron emission tomography imaging studies in humans.
At a glance
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