Published: Thu, November 02, 2017
Medicine | By Melba Vasquez

Alzheimer's Disease is 'Whole Body' Problem

Alzheimer's Disease is 'Whole Body' Problem

The team from the University of British Columbia were inspired to look at the earlier origins of the disease, which now has no cure, because if their suspicions were correct then drug therapies could target other easier-to-reach organs than the brain.

Song and Yan-Jiang Wang, a neurology professor at the Third Military Medical University in China, demonstrated the theory through parabiosis.

Amyloid-beta plaques or protein clumps that destroy brain cells and lead to memory loss and confusion can develop in the liver or kidneys, said researchers from the University of British Columbia in Canada.

Over a period of 12 months, the "normal" mice contracted the simulated Alzheimer's through the shared circulatory system and bore symptoms such as twisted strands of protein that kill brain cells from the inside-out.

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"'This is important for our understanding of biological changes and how toxic proteins may spread through the body, but this is very far removed from human Alzheimer's disease".

Mice do not naturally develop Alzheimer's, so the team led by Weihong Song infected the lab mice with the human version of beta-amyloid, which does turn into the crippling brai disease.

He added: "A recent study found amyloid-beta aggregates were present in the hearts and impaired heart function of patients with Alzheimer's disease".

According to researchers, these amyloid-beta has cancer-like properties and can travel to brain from other parts of the body where it accumulates and begins to inflict damage.

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"The main point of this study is to show the amyloid-β [from blood circulating outside of the brain] can get into the brain and deposit there and form the Alzheimer pathologies". This protein caused the Alzheimer plaques to form in the healthy mouse's brain, initiating a process in which their brain tissue would start dying.

Besides the brain, amyloid-beta is produced in blood platelets, blood vessels and muscles, and its precursor protein is found in several other organs. Other signs of Alzheimer's-like damage included brain cell degeneration, inflammation and microbleeds. Just four months into the study, the normal mice's brains showed an impaired ability to transmit electrical signals vital for learning and memory, said the researchers. "That might allow more amyloid beta to infiltrate the brain, supplementing what is produced by the brain itself and accelerating the deterioration", Song added.

Several promising recent studies have shown the potential for an early-warning diagnostic blood test to be developed that identifies the build-up of these amyloid beta proteins in the bloodstream.

"I still think everything has to go through the brain, but [we can see now] there's a balance between outside and inside the brain, because of the blood barrier".

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