A new study conducted by a team of researchers with the University of Florida has found an explanation for how stress may cause Alzheimer’s disease. Field experts believe that the finding will lead to a better, more efficient treatment.
• Researchers offer information on the mechanics linking stress to Alzheimer’s disease.
• Researchers explain what a potential new treatment for the disease might look like.
• Researchers describe the experiments used in the study.
This is not the first scientific project to link the two to one another, however it is the first to offer any proof of the mechanics through witch stress may lead to the disease.
Dr. Todd Golde, University of Florida’s director of the Center for Translational Research in Neurodegenerative Disease, led a number of his colleagues on a quest to investigate the issue and concluded that that there’s a hormone which the human brain releases in response to stress, and that this hormone also increases the production of a protein linked to Alzheimer’s development.
Dr. Golde gave a statement saying that the research he and his team conducted “adds detailed insight into the stress mechanisms that might promote at least one of the Alzheimer’s pathologies”.
Based on what they’ve learned, the researchers are currently working on a new strategy of preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Their plan is to use an antibody known for blocking the release of the stress hormone in order to inhibit the production of the protein associated with Alzheimer’s.
To reach these conclusions, Dr. Golde and his team looked at a number of mice who were suffering from acute stress and compared their brains to those of mice who weren’t suffering from stress.
The results showed that the stressed out animals had a higher level of a protein known as “beta-amyloid” in their brains, compared to non-stressed animals. Field experts have long known that these proteins can be found in large amounts in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. They clump together and form plaques, which in turn are believed to be responsible for the disruption of brain cell communication.
Further tests showed that stress releases a hormone known as “corticotrophin releasing factor” (CRF) into the brain, boosting the activity on an enzyme known as “gamma secretase”, which in turn also increases the production of beta-amyloid.
After using a laboratory dish to apply corticotrophin releasing factor to brain neurons from humans, Dr. Golde and his team noticed that the beta-amyloid production increased significantly through gamma secretase.
The tests also “provide mechanistic insight into how stress may increase AD [Alzheimer’s disease] risk”.
In the United States, Alzheimer’s disease is the main cause of dementia. It currently affects about 5.3 million Americans, and the number is expected to reach 13.8 million by the time we enter 2050.
The findings were publisher earlier this month, in the The EMBO Journal.