According to new research, inflammation brain changes related to Alzheimer’s disease may begin as early as 20 years before symptoms develop. This discovery has significant implications for prevention of the disease, since addressing the inflammation earlier in life may lower the risk of getting the disease later on. Alzheimer’s disease, which affects over 5 million people in the US, is thought to result from a combination of inflammatory brain changes, which include the development of tangles and plaques in and between brain cells, respectively. These changes in the brain impair communication between neurons, which causes the progressive memory loss and behavioral changes associated with the disease.
To arrive at these findings, Prof. Agneta Nordberg and colleagues of the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden carried out a study on participants who had genetic mutations linked with Alzheimer’s due to family history of the disease. The team injected the participants with radioactive tracer molecules and used PET scans to track plaque levels and inflammation associated with the activation of astrocytes, the most common support cell in the brain.
Astrocytes and the Early Formation of Plaques
The researchers were able to identify plaques and inflammatory changes in the brains of their participants almost 20 years before the onset of memory problems related to Alzheimer’s. In particular, the researchers discovered that astrocytes are most active when plaques begin to form in the brain. An additional finding of this study was the absence of these specific brain changes in those who did not have any genetic mutations related to Alzheimer’s disease. These findings suggest that drug treatments which reduce astrocyte activation earlier in life could potentially prevent the disease or alter its progression.
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Diverging longitudinal changes in astrocytosis and amyloid PET in autosomal-dominant Alzheimer’s disease, Agneta Nordberg et al., Brain, doi: http://dx.doi.:awv404, published online 27 January 2016.
Karolinska Institutet news release, accessed 25 January 2016 via AlphaGalileo.
Additional source: Alzheimer’s Association, 2015 Alzheimer’s disease facts and figures, accessed 25 January 2016.
Additional source: Alzheimer’s Association, What is Alzheimer’s?, accessed 25 January 2016.
Original Article: www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/305564.php