Inflammation Found Linked to Dementia Onset 

Cases of Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease continue to grow throughout the world but they are now the leading cause of death in affluent parts of Wales.  According to the Office for National Statistics, heart disease is also the biggest killer in the more impoverished areas.

With this divergence in mind, it is interesting to see what might be the root cause, particularly among those wealthier folks who are falling prey to dementia. Indeed, it is easy to see why a community might be vulnerable to heart disease:  poverty forces people to work more hours or have less access to healthy foods and health care. On the other hand, the providence dementia among wealthy people [in Wales], is a bit alarming.

A new study published in the journal Annals of Neurology suggests that inflammation is the key to understanding this trend.

Inflammation, of course, is the term that describes how the body revs up immune response to potential dangers which can include not only illness but also environmental factors like poor diet or pollution as well as behavioral factors like smoking and stress.

According to study author Keenan Walker, of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, “These results suggest that inflammation in mid-life may be an early contributor to the brain changes that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.”

To reach this conclusion, the researchers analyzed different brain samples taken from patients at memory clinics.  Indeed, they found a significant presence of healthy dendritic spines (these are the connections between neurons) can provide protection against the onset of Alzheimer’s in those patients whose brains have proteins associated with the disease.

Lead study author Jeremy Herskowitz adds, “One of the precursors of Alzheimer’s is the development in the brain of proteins called amyloid and tau, which we refer to as the pathology of Alzheimer’s.”

The University of Alabama Birmingham School of Medicine Department of Neurology assistant professor goes on to say that roughly one third of the aging population have both amyloid and tau buildup but do not develop dementia. The study, then, demonstrates that some individuals have larger and more numerous dendritic spines than those who have dementia, which indicates that spine health certainly plays a role in dementia onset.

He concludes, “This data suggests that rebuilding neurons is possible. And as we are better able to identify the increase of amyloid and tau early in the progression of the disease, even before symptoms arise, we might be able to one day offer a medication that can contribute to maintaining healthy dendritic spines in those with the Alzheimer’s pathology.”

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