Recent research suggests that heightened stress levels may be correlated to a greater incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.
The study, whose findings were published in the EMBO Journal, was led by Dr. Todd Golde, University of Florida’s Director of the Center for Translational Research in Neurodegenerative Disease.
The laboratory experiment was conducted by analyzing the brains of mice which had been exposed to acute stress, versus those of non-stressed mice.
In comparison with the control group, the animals which had been more stressed had higher levels of the corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF), a brain hormone which is released by the body while being under pressure.
The mice also exhibited more amyloid beta protein fragments. These organic compounds are known to play a role in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, because they clump together and cannot be cleared by the blood stream. Eventually, this build-up causes brain degeneration.
Experts took their experiment one step further by exposing human neurons to CRF. This led to more amyloid proteins forming in the neurons, just like it had happened in the previous trial.
“These data collectively (…) provide mechanistic insight into how stress may increase AD [Alzheimer’s disease] risk”, explained the study authors.
Prior research had established associations between Alzheimer’s and other factors, such as lifestyle, environmental conditions and heredity.
According to Dr. Todd Golde, his team of scientists is currently conducting trials for identifying an antibody that may be successful in blocking the stress hormone completely. Previously, experts have unsuccessfully attempted to block the CRF receptor involved in initiating the stress-coping mechanism.
Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, which results in progressive and irreversible mental decline. Also, in the United States it is the 6th leading cause of death, and the only one in the top 10 which cannot be prevented, slowed or cured.
Early symptoms generally include: short-term memory loss, inability to complete everyday tasks, difficulty concentrating, confusion with time or place, vision problems, trouble holding a conversation, misplacing things, poor judgement, social withdrawal and personality changes.
Based on estimations, approximately 5.3 Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s , and 200,000 of them are under the age of 65. Around two-thirds of the U.S. citizens who have this condition are women.
It is expected that as the population ages, unless a medical breakthrough is accomplished, the number of Alzheimer’s patients will surpass 13.8 million by 2050. In addition, costs associated to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are predicted to skyrocket from $226 billion to $1.1 trillion.
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