A common feature of many neurodegenerative diseases is the deposition of β-sheet-rich amyloid aggregates formed by proteins specific to these diseases. These protein aggregates are thought to cause neuronal dysfunction, directly or indirectly. Recent studies have strongly implicated cell-to-cell transmission of misfolded proteins as a common mechanism for the onset and progression of various neurodegenerative disorders. Emerging evidence also suggests the presence of conformationally diverse 'strains' of each type of disease protein, which may be another shared feature of amyloid aggregates, accounting for the tremendous heterogeneity within each type of neurodegenerative disease. Although there are many more questions to be answered, these studies have opened up new avenues for therapeutic interventions in neurodegenerative disorders.
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The authors thank J.Q. Trojanowski for critical reading of the manuscript. This study was supported by NIH/NIA grants AG17586, NS53488 (V.M.Y.L.), the Marian S. Ware Alzheimer Program, the Jeff and Anne Keefer Fund and the Parkinson Council.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Guo, J., Lee, V. Cell-to-cell transmission of pathogenic proteins in neurodegenerative diseases. Nat Med 20, 130–138 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nm.3457
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