Monday August 19, 2019

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.

Next Story

Regular Exercise to Help Prevent Development of Physical Signs of Alzheimer’s

For the results, the research team conducted three studies--in the first study, the researchers examined 317 participants enrolled in the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer's Prevention

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Our research shows that in a late-middle-age population at risk for Alzheimer's disease, physically active individuals experience fewer age-related alterations in biomarkers associated with the disease. Pixabay

Regular exercise is not only good for memory as people age, but it also appears to help prevent the development of physical signs of Alzheimer’s, in those who are at risk for the disease, says a study.

“Our research shows that in a late-middle-age population at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, physically active individuals experience fewer age-related alterations in biomarkers associated with the disease, as well as memory and cognitive functioning,” said Ozioma Okonkwo, Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin.

For the results, the research team conducted three studies–in the first study, the researchers examined 317 participants enrolled in the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention, an ongoing observational study of more than 1,500 people with a history of parents with probable Alzheimer’s dementia.

In the second study, researchers studied 95 people, also from the registry, who were given scores called polygenic risk scores, based on whether they possessed certain genes associated with Alzheimer’s.

Exercise, Development, Alzheimer
Regular exercise is not only good for memory as people age, but it also appears to help prevent the development of physical signs of Alzheimer’s, in those who are at risk for the disease, says a study. Pixabay

Similarly, the third study examined MRIs from 107 individuals from the registry who were asked to run on a treadmill to determine their oxygen uptake efficiency slope, a measure of aerobic fitness.

Participation in the registry included an initial assessment of biological, health and lifestyle factors associated with the disease and follow-up assessments every two to four years.

All participants completed a questionnaire about their physical activity and underwent neuropsychological testing and brain scans to measure several biomarkers associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers compared data from individuals younger than 60 years with older adults and found a decrease in cognitive abilities as well as an increase in biomarkers associated with the disease in older individuals.

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However, the effects were significantly weaker in older adults who reported engaging in the equivalent of at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week.

“The most interesting part of our research is that we now show evidence that lifestyle habits – in this case regular, moderate exercise – can modify the effect of what is commonly considered a non-modifiable risk factor for Alzheimer’s, in this case, aging,” Okonkwo said.

“Overall, these studies suggest that the negative effect of aging and genetic risk on Alzheimer’s’ disease biomarkers and cognition can be lessened in physically active, older adults at risk for the disease compared with their less active peers.” (IANS)