Neurodegenerative diseases are somewhat difficult to manage and treat, due to the brain being a complex and sensitive organ. So instead of targeting the brain, researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC) looked at the bigger picture -- the body. According to the study led by Dr. Weihong Song, Alzheimer's may be caused by debilitating proteins, called beta-amyloids, from the kidney and liver, which travels via the blood stream to reach the brain. Beta-amyloids usually clump together to form insoluble plaques in nerves that cause disruption of electrical signals.
Song, together with Yan-Jiang Wang, demonstrated how the protein moves around using a technique called parabiosis. This technique is done by attaching two mice so that they share the same blood supply. These mice do not normally develop Alzheimer's disease, therefore scientists had to modify one of the mice to carry a mutant human gene that produces high levels of beta-amyloids. Results show that the healthy mouse connected to the modified one contracted Alzheimer's after a year. Aside from the plaques, the mice also developed tangles of protein strands inside their brain cells, disrupting the functions of the organ, and eventually caused their demise.
As people age, the blood-brain barrier (BBB), which separates circulating blood from the brain, weakens. This may be the reason why beta-amyloids from other parts of the body are able to infiltrate the brain. Beta-amyloids are naturally produced in the brain, but beta-amyloids from other parts of the brain accelerate the clumping process and hasten the effects neurodegenerative conditions. If researchers could develop some way to biochemically “tag” these beta-amyloids, the liver and the kidneys may be able to process and expel them from the body.
Alzheimer's disease is a chronic neurodegenerative disease wherein an individual develops a difficulty in remembering things. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than breast and prostate cancer combined. Every 66 seconds, someone in the country develops Alzheimer's, and more than five million Americans are currently living with the disease – it may even rise up to 16 million by 2050 if left ignored.
It is frightening to be diagnosed with the disease, but it may be prevented with a healthy lifestyle.
Read Alzheimers.news for more stories about Alzheimer's disease.