Alzheimer’s brain barrier damage theory could pave the way for new treatments

Alzheimer’s disease may be caused by damage to a protective barrier in the body that allows fatty substances to build up in the brain, according to recently published research.

A new explanation called the “Lipid Invasion Model,” argues that lipids entering the brain due to damage to the blood-brain barrier – a dense system of small blood vessels in the brain that only allow a small number of essential substances – is the determining cause of the degenerative disease that affects millions of people worldwide.

The hypothesis is published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease Reports and could open up new possibilities for diagnosis or treatment. The theory also supports the idea that certain lifestyle changes could reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by reducing the impact on the blood-brain barrier and the resulting brain damage in people with the disease. Alzheimer’s.

Dr Jonathan Rudge, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Reading and author of the study, says that “a healthy blood-brain barrier is extremely important for the efficient functioning of our brain. If the barrier is damaged, as it is in people who develop Alzheimer’s disease, external lipids like cholesterol and fatty acids have a chance to break through. »

“These external lipids are handled differently than those typically found in the brain. My theory proposes that these invading lipids lead to brain damage, such as brain shrinkage, and the development of amyloid plaques and “tau tangles,” which cause the characteristic behaviors of Alzheimer’s disease. , such as memory loss, sleep disturbances and paranoia. »

The presence of excess lipids in the brain cells of patients with Alzheimer’s disease is a piece of original research published by Alois Alzheimer in 1906, but there has been relatively little research on the subject since.

The new study brings together previous research to present the new explanation for the cause of the condition. It follows 10 years of research and suggests that the risk factors commonly associated with Alzheimer’s disease are the same factors that damage the blood-brain barrier: old age, head trauma, hypertension, smoking, obesity, diabetes, chronic deprivation sleep and stress.

This suggests that this is why footballers and boxers are particularly at risk, and why the disease largely affects older people, because in both cases the blood-brain barrier has been damaged or worn down.

There are two types of Alzheimer’s: the relatively rare, hereditary, early-onset form and the non-hereditary, late-onset form associated with aging. This latter form is becoming more common as people live longer, but the current explanation known as the amyloid hypothesis is more concerned with the rarer inherited form.

This explanation indicates that the disease is caused by excessive levels of a protein called beta-amyloid. The lipid invasion model supports this to some extent, but argues that in the late-onset form, beta-amyloid is only one of many factors that damage the blood-brain barrier, allowing external lipids to enter.

The Lipid Invasion Model opens new avenues of research for the detection, prevention and treatment of the disease. It may have parallels in other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and motor neuron disease, which also disproportionately affect older people and people who play certain sports, and may also be associated with damage to the body. blood-brain barrier.

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