Alzheimer’s Disease is the most prevalent form of dementia, affecting approximately 44 million people worldwide. For decades, researchers have been trying to figure out where the disease originates. Now, due to a groundbreaking study, they may know. According to recent research, toxic protein leaks through the blood-brain barrier are a likely cause of Alzheimer’s Disease. Of course, scientists already knew that an accumulation of the protein, called beta-amyloid, was a hallmark of Alzheimer’s. They just didn’t understand why it was in the brain or where it came from.
A new study from Curtin University in Australia shed some light on the issue, stating that a “probable” cause of Alzheimer’s disease is the leaking of beta-amyloid into the brain from the blood. Lead author Dr. John Mamo said, “Our research shows that these toxic protein deposits that form in the brains of people living with Alzheimer’s disease most likely leak into the brain from fat carrying particles called lipoproteins.” Previous research showed that beta-amyloid is made outside the brain with lipoproteins. Building on that, Professor Mamo and his team genetically modified mice so that their livers produced human beta-amyloid. The control group had no genetic modifications. When later tested, the test mice performed worse on cognitive tests earlier than the control group. Tissue samples from the brains and livers of the mice also showed that the lipids lead to inflammation in the brain.
Professor Mamo said, “The study shows that exaggerated abundance in blood of potentially toxic fat-protein complexes can damage microscopic brain blood vessels and, after that, leak into the brain causing inflammation and brain cell death.” Researchers hope that the study may open additional avenues to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s Disease in the future. Specifically, they believe that these toxic protein deposits in the blood may respond well to drugs and dietary changes. Medical advances such as this could help reduce the risk or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease, improving the lives of millions of patients and their families worldwide.