The Role of Protein Aggregation in Neurodegenerative Diseases

🕒 Approximate reading time: 4 minutes

Protein aggregation, the clumping together of misfolded proteins, is a common feature of many neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and Huntington's disease. Understanding the role of protein aggregation in these conditions may lead to more effective therapeutic strategies.

The Role of Proteins in the Body

Proteins are crucial for nearly every function in our bodies. They act as enzymes, antibodies, transporters, and structural components, to name a few roles. To function correctly, a protein must adopt a specific three-dimensional shape. If a protein doesn't fold correctly, it can become harmful.

Protein Misfolding and Aggregation

Protein misfolding can happen for a variety of reasons, including genetic mutations, environmental influences, and aging. When proteins misfold, they can stick together and form aggregates. These aggregates can disrupt cellular function, either by impairing the normal function of the misfolded protein or by physically damaging cells.

Protein Aggregation in Neurodegenerative Diseases

In many neurodegenerative diseases, protein aggregates form in the brain. Each disease is typically associated with the aggregation of a specific protein:

  1. Alzheimer's Disease: Involves the aggregation of the amyloid-beta and tau proteins.

  2. Parkinson's Disease: Characterised by the aggregation of the alpha-synuclein protein into Lewy bodies.

  3. Huntington's Disease: Features the aggregation of the huntingtin protein.

##Impact of Protein Aggregates

Protein aggregates can have several detrimental effects on cells. They can disrupt cellular trafficking, overwhelm the protein degradation machinery, trigger an inflammatory response, and even lead to cell death. Neurons are particularly vulnerable to these effects, due in part to their complex structure and high metabolic demand.

Research and Therapeutic Strategies

Understanding how protein aggregation contributes to neurodegenerative disease is an active area of research. Several therapeutic strategies are being developed to counter protein aggregation, including drugs to stabilise proteins in their correct shape, enhance the cell's protein degradation machinery, or block the aggregation process.


While there's still much to learn about protein aggregation and its role in neurodegenerative diseases, this research could provide promising avenues for treatment. By preventing or reversing protein aggregation, it may be possible to halt the progression of these devastating diseases.