Wednesday July 18, 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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Scientists Develop Potential Approach to Treat Dementia, Stroke

"It also shows that these changes may be reversible, paving the way for potential treatments," Williams added

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The article provides information on the topic "Scientists Develop Potential Approach to Treat Dementia, Stroke". (IANS)

Stopping blood vessel cells from becoming dysfunctional may reverse the symptoms of small vessel disease (SVD) — major cause of dementia and stroke — and prevent brain damage in older adults, scientists have found.

The study, led by the University of Edinburgh, found that SVD occurs when cells that line the small blood vessels in the brain become dysfunctional causing them to secrete a molecule into the brain.

The molecule stops production of the protective layer that surrounds brain cells — called myelin — leading to brain damage.

“This important research helps us understand why small vessel disease happens, providing a direct link between small blood vessels and changes in the brain that are linked to dementia,” said Anna Williams from University of Edinburgh’s MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine in Scotland.

“It also shows that these changes may be reversible, paving the way for potential treatments,” Williams added.

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

In the study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the team used rat model and found that treating them with drugs that can reverse changes in blood vessels in the brain associated with cerebral small vessel disease.

“The findings highlight a promising direction for research into treatments that could limit the damaging effects of blood vessel changes and help keep nerve cells functioning for longer,” said Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research in Britain.

Also Read: Sleep Disorder Linked with Brain Changes Found in Dementia

However, further studies are needed to test whether the treatment also works when the disease is firmly established, researchers said.

Dementia is one of the biggest problems facing society, as people live longer and the population ages.

Estimates indicate there are almost 47 million people living with dementia worldwide and the numbers affected are expected to double every 20 years, rising to more than 115 million by 2050. (IANS)

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