Monday January 22, 2018

Alzheimer’s disease linked to several unsaturated fatty acids in the brain: Study

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Cognitive Impairment
Alzheimer's disease patient Isidora Tomaz, 82, sits in an armchair in her house in Lisbon, Portugal. It’s predicted that by 2050, 135 million Americans are going to suffer from mild cognitive impairment, a precursor of Alzheimer's. VOA
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London, March 23, 2017: Researchers have found that several unsaturated fatty acids in the brain may be associated with the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder, which causes impaired memory, executive function and language. It accounts for 60-80 per cent of total dementia cases worldwide, with over 46 million people suffering from the disease worldwide. The number of patients is estimated to rise to 131.5 million by 2050.

Currently, it is thought that the main reason for developing memory problems in dementia is the presence of two big molecules in the brain called tau and amyloid proteins — that are shown to start accumulating in the brain up to 20 years prior to the onset of the disease.

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However, the findings, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, showed that the metabolism of omega-3 and omega-6 unsaturated fatty acids were significantly decreased in Alzheimer’s brains when compared to brains from healthy patients.

“Our results show a potentially crucial and unexpected role for fats in the onset of dementia. Most surprisingly, we found that a supposedly beneficial omega-3, DHA, actually increased with the progression of the disease,” said Cristina Legido Quigley from King’s College London.

In the study, the team looked at brain tissue samples from 43 people ranging in age from 57 to 95 years old.

The researchers then measured the metabolite levels of the brain regions that are commonly associated with neurodegerative diseases — the middle frontal gyrus and the inferior temporal gyrus — as well as the metabolite levels in a brain area that is not normally affected by the disease’s pathology — the cerebellum.

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The results showed that unsaturated fatty acid metabolism is significantly dysregulated in the brains of patients with varying degrees of Alzheimer pathology.

The main molecules that were different were six small fats — docosahexaenoic acid, linoleic acid, arachidonic acid, linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, and oleic acid — including omegas, which changed in abundance in different regions of the brain. (IANS)

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A study finds: What causes dementia?

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1 in 6 people over the age of 80 have dementia. Pixabay
1 in 6 people over the age of 80 have dementia. Pixabay

Dementia results in a progressive and irreversible loss of nerve cells and brain functioning, causing loss of memory and cognitive impairments affecting the ability to learn. Currently, there is no cure.

Findings

  • The toxic build-up of urea, a compound created by the liver, in the brain has been found as the major reason that can cause brain damage and lead to Huntington’s Disease, one of seven major types of age-related dementia.
  • Urea level peaks in the brain even before dementia sets in. The discovery could one day help doctors diagnose and even treat dementia.
  • Urea is similarly linked to Alzheimer’s, suggesting that the toxic build-up of urea could be relevant to all types of age-related dementias.
44 million people worldwide suffer from dementia. Pixabay
44 million people worldwide suffer from dementia. Pixabay

“This study on Huntington’s Disease is the final piece of the jigsaw which leads us to conclude that high brain urea plays a pivotal role in dementia,” said Garth Cooper, Professor at The University of Manchester.

“Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s are at opposite ends of the dementia spectrum — so if this holds true for these types, then I believe it is highly likely it will hold true for all the major age-related dementias,” Cooper said, in the paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Urea and ammonia in the brain are metabolic breakdown products of protein. If urea and ammonia build up in the body because the kidneys are unable to eliminate them, for example, serious symptoms can result, the researchers said.

“More research, however, is needed to discover the source of the elevated urea in Huntington’s Disease, particularly concerning the potential involvement of ammonia and a systemic metabolic defect,” Cooper noted.

For the study, the team used human brains, donated by families for medical research, as well as transgenic sheep in Australia.