Alzheimer’s disease: Scientists discover the ‘holy grail’ to reduce condition developing

What is Alzheimer's disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia. Dementia refers to a set of symptoms, including problems with thinking, reasoning, learning, memory and language. Alzheimer’s is more likely as a person gets older. About one in every 100 people aged 65 have Alzheimer’s and this will rise to 40 out of every 100 by age 85. The disease is more prevalent in woman because woman tend to live longer than men. Scientists have now found a possible way to help stop the disease from spreading in the brain.

Scientists were able to identify the brain cells which are most vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease for the first time, in what’s being referred to as the ‘holy grail’ of dementia studies.

The brain cells lie in a region known as the entorhinal cortex which is responsible for memory, navigation and time perception and they are the first to be killed off by the disease.

The discovery brings fresh hope the findings could be used to develop a new and much more targeted approach to developing therapies to slow or prevent the spread of Alzheimer’s disease.

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The findings were published in Nature Neuroscience and offer a new insight into dementia research.

Prof Martin Kampmann said of the discovery: “We know which neurons are first to die in other neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease and motor neurone disease – but not Alzheimer’s.

“If we understood why these neurons are so vulnerable, maybe we could identify interventions that could make them, and the brain as a whole, more resilient to the disease.”

A person’s brain cells are particularly prone to forming toxic clumps or tangles which slowly begin to destroy these cells leading to complications such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Prof Kampmann believes by targeting these toxic clumps they would be able to stop the disease in its tracks.

Analysis of brain tissue found the specific group of cells disappear very early on – followed by a similar subset in the superior frontal gyrus.

This is an area of grey matter responsible for higher cognitive functions such as thinking, problem solving, planning and working memory – used in the execution of tasks.

Co-senior author Prof Lea Grinberg added: “The belief in the field has been once these trash proteins are there, it’s always ‘game over’ for the cell.

“But our lab has been finding that that is not the case.

“Some cells end up with high levels of tau tangles well into the progression of the disease, but for some reason don’t die.

“It has become a pressing question for us to understand the specific factors that make some cells selectively vulnerable to Alzheimer’s pathology, while other cells appear able to resist it for years, if not decades.”

There’s no certain way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia from developing, but there are ways to lower your risk, said the NHS.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet should help to lower your chances of developing the brain condition.

It’s also important to do enough exercise. Everyone should aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every week.

There are around 850,000 people in the UK with dementia, and the condition affects one in every six people over 80-years-old.

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