Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, can be a terrible disease. Many people struggle for years with their illness, as there is no known cure. There are also no definitive causes of the disease, although there are many different factors that can result in a diagnosis. Scientists believe that 70% of risk is genetic, with prior illnesses including hypertension, past head injury, and depression. New research has found another potential risk factor and warning sign: leaky blood vessels.
A study recently published in Neuron looked at the MRI results of participants who have reported mild issues with memory and thinking skills. The results showed that these people had higher rates of leaky blood vessels in the hippocampus, which is the exact area of the brain that assists in these cognitive skills. While the study showed that all people experience blood vessel leakiness in the hippocampus as they age, the process tends to be accelerated in those likely to develop Alzheimer’s.
The findings of the study suggests that it may be possible to determine people at risk for developing Alzheimer’s simply by looking at their blood vessels. Researchers suggests that a prescription drug may help the body seal up leaky blood vessels thereby preventing or delaying the onset of dementia. The results are promising, and gives patients and families hope for their future. Since early detection is key in treating early onset Alzheimer’s, the new research may improve how people are tested.
Previous research conducted on people who had died of Alzheimer’s showed that there was a definite breakdown in blood-brain barriers, which is a layer of cells that protects brain cells from any toxins in the bloodstream. These studies did not show whether the breakdown occurred before or after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, leading to the new study. When looking at the blood-brain barriers of the participants involved in the MRI study, researchers found that there was a higher permeability in the barrier of those with the cognitive impairments.
All of this research will certainly lead to a better understanding of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. It is hoped that results will lead to more research into a testing method for those at-risk of early onset dementia as well as a potentially treatment for those already experiencing mild symptoms. In doing this, millions of families will find relief from the devastation that Alzheimer’s can have.
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