Alzheimer's may originate outside the brain, says new study

A new study from the University of British Columbia has found that Alzheimer's may start from outside the brain.


NSFW    VANCOUVER, CANADA — Scientists have long assumed that Alzheimer's starts in the brain, but new research suggests that might not be the case.

According to AAAS, patients with Alzheimer's disease have abnormal deposits of amyloid beta protein in their brain, which smothers the cells and impairs nerve and memory function.

Amyloid beta protein can be found in other organs apart from the brain, though because of the blood-brain barrier, the amyloid responsible for Alzheimer's was generally believed to only originate in the brain.

To see if this theory was true, researchers at the University of British Columbia used parabiosis to attach a normal mouse to one with high amyloid beta levels. They found that the protein was able to travel to the normal mouse's brain, accumulating and beginning to cause damage. In just 12 months, the normal mouse had effectively 'contracted' Alzheimer's.

Scientists suggest that as the blood-brain barrier weakens with age, more amyloid-beta may infiltrate the brain, and contribute to its deterioration.

The findings indicate that future drugs might be able to halt the disease by targeting the toxic protein before it ever reaches the brain.
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