The Latest Surprising Facts About Alzheimer’s
Surprising facts about Alzheimer’s are surfacing nearly every day, it seems. Take, for instance, amyloid plaques: they’re at the heart of scientists’ hypotheses about what causes Alzheimer’s, and the focus of research is on removing them as an effective treatment option and hopefully, one day, a cure.
Yet a research study led by the University of Cincinnati and in cooperation with the Karolinska Institute in Sweden is turning this thinking upside down. Alberto Espay, the study’s senior author and professor of neurology at UC, shares, “It’s not the plaques that are causing impaired cognition. Amyloid plaques are a consequence, not a cause.”
If Not Amyloid Plaques, Then What?
Espay and the UC team believe the focus should instead shift to the decline in soluble amyloid-beta peptide, and not the resulting accumulation of amyloid plaques. These findings are based on the brain scans and spinal fluid tests on hundreds of participants, all of whom have amyloid plaques. In comparing the amount of plaques and peptide, participants with higher levels of peptide were the ones with normal cognitive functioning – regardless of plaque levels.
As a matter of fact, more than ½ of all adults age 85 and older have developed amyloid plaques – but only as few as one in ten of them go on to develop dementia.
Further research is ongoing, including tests on animal models. Based on the outcome of these tests, treatment options aimed at increasing the soluble version of the protein and preventing it from hardening into plaques could be the next step in solving the Alzheimer’s puzzle.
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