Is The Alzheimer’s Disease A ‘Whole Body’ Problem?

Over 5 million people currently suffer from the Alzheimer’s Disease. Statistics estimate that 1 in 10 people over the age of 65 years are affected by it. The disease process takes approximately 8-10 years to work from detection to death. It starts out slowly as two abnormal protein fragments called ‘plaques‘ and ‘tangles‘ accumulate in the brain, consistently killing off brain cells. The ‘plaques’ are formed when sticky protein pieces called ‘amyloid-beta’ (sometimes called ‘’beta-amyloid”) clump together to form the plaques.  

The plaques and tangles begin accumulating in the hippocampus area of the brain, which affects memory, and then they work their way into the brain’s language center, making it difficult to instantly bring up appropriate words. Slowly, these abnormal protein fragments spread into all other parts of the brain, finally reaching the brain center that controls breathing and the heart, thereby causing death. 

Interestingly, although Alzheimer’s is a disease of the brain, researchers are now coming to the conclusion that it is a “Whole Body” issue and the origin of the disease may actually be caused by breakdowns of the toxic proteins in other parts of the body.   

Specifically, University of British Columbia Professor Dr. Weihong Song and Neurology Professor Yan-Jiang Wang of the Third Military Medical University in Chongqing, China, conducted research on mice, wherein they surgically attached the bodies of mice in groups of two, making them share the same blood system. One of the mice was injected with a human gene that produces high levels of the toxic amyloid-beta protein that forms the plaques that attack the brain.  Although normal mice do not generally contract the Alzheimer’s Disease, the normal mouse partners did contract the disease in this study.  The amyloid-beta protein traveled from the genetically-modified mice via the blood system to the healthy mice, thus causing them to contract the disease.

This study proves that the amyloid-beta that is formed in the brain could also come from other parts of the body.  Amyloid-beta is produced in blood vessels, muscles and blood platelet, in addition to other parts of the body.   This study gives science another piece to the puzzle of curing the Alzheimer’s Disease. 


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