Wednesday May 23, 2018

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
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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.

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Small Head Blows Can Also Increase Risk of Dementia

In total, 357,558 participants, whose average age was 49, were tracked.

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Concussion without loss of consciousness led to 2.36 times the risk for dementia, showed the findings published in the journal JAMA Neurology.
Head blows can cause dementia, Pixabay

Even head blows that do not result in loss of consciousness may cause brain changes that increase the risk of dementia, new research has found.

The study, which tracked more than 350,000 participants, showed that the likelihood of dementia more than doubled following concussion.

Concussion without loss of consciousness led to 2.36 times the risk for dementia, showed the findings published in the journal JAMA Neurology.

These risks were slightly elevated for those in the loss-of-consciousness bracket (2.51) and were nearly four times higher (3.77) for those with the more serious moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injury.

The researchers identified participants from two databases. The first group included all-era veterans whose traumatic brain injuries could have occurred during civilian or military life.

The second group included veterans serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, for whom most of these injuries had occurred in combat zones, such as from shockwaves in blasts.

Even head blows that do not result in loss of consciousness may cause brain changes that increase the risk of dementia, new research has found.
Dementia, Pixabay

“The findings in both groups were similar, indicating that concussions occurring in combat areas were as likely to be linked to dementia as those concussions affecting the general population,” said first author Deborah Barnes, Professor at the University of California, San Francisco, US.

In total, 357,558 participants, whose average age was 49, were tracked.

Half had been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, of which 54 per cent reported experiencing concussion.

The study followed the participants for an average of 4.2 years.

“There are several mechanisms that may explain the association between traumatic brain injury and dementia,” said senior author and principal investigator Kristine Yaffe, Professor at the University of California, San Francisco.

Also Read: Researchers Identified Protein Associated With Breast Cancer

 “There’s something about trauma that may hasten the development of neurodegenerative conditions. One theory is that brain injury induces or accelerates the accumulation of abnormal proteins that lead to neuronal death associated with conditions like Alzheimer’s disease,” Yaffe said.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.

“It’s also possible that trauma leaves the brain more vulnerable to other injuries or ageing processes,” Yaffe said. (IANS)

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