Thursday April 18, 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

Late Onset of Menstruation May Spike up Dementia Risk, Says Study

For the study, the researchers involved 6,137 women among which 42 per cent later developed dementia

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Representational Image- dementia, Pixabay

Women whose menstruation starts later and those who enter menopause early may have a greater risk of developing dementia, say researchers.

The findings showed that women who had their first menstrual cycle at age 16 or older had a 23 per cent greater risk of dementia than women who had their first menstrual cycle at age 13.

Women who went through natural menopause before age 47 had a 19 per cent greater risk of dementia than women who went through menopause at age 47 or older.

In addition, women who had hysterectomy — surgery to remove all or part of the uterus — had an eight per cent greater risk of dementia than those who did not, according to the study, published in the journal Neurology.

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

“Oestrogen levels can go up and down throughout a woman’s lifetime. Our results show that less exposure to oestrogen over the course of a lifetime is linked to an increased risk of dementia,” said Paola Gilsanz, Researcher at Kaiser Permanente – a US-based healthcare company.

For the study, the researchers involved 6,137 women among which 42 per cent later developed dementia.

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“Since women are 50 per cent more likely to develop dementia over their lifetimes than men, it’s important to study any risk factors that are specific to women that could eventually lead us to potential points of intervention,” Gilsanz suggested. (IANS)