Brain Protein May Hold Alzheimer’s Treatment Key
New findings by neurological researchers unearthed a brain protein that could offer “a whole different approach to aging” according to lead researcher Dr. Aron Buchman.
Seniors with high levels of a gene called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, displayed a 50 percent slower loss of memory than those with lower levels. Buchman believes the study’s results mean BDNF may protect against dementia.
The study, published this January in the journal Neurology, observed that BDNF’s positive effects lasted despite the “plaques and tangles” in Alzheimer’s-affected brains.
Next steps include finding ways to elevate BDNF levels in seniors. Researchers note that exercise, social interaction and mentally stimulating activities may boost BDNF levels, and are good ideas no matter what.
Does Seafood Protect Against Alzheimer’s?
Good news for seafood lovers! The mercury in fish doesn’t lead to dementia, says a February study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association. Not only that, but moderate fish intake may help prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s for those with genetic risk of the disease.
Though researchers found mercury in the brains of those who consumed seafood, they found no link between increased mercury consumption and the brain damage associated with dementia.
In another study of seafood’s effects, certain participants who ate one or more fish meals per week developed less Alzheimer’s-related damage. The participants who benefited from fish consumption shared a gene variant called apolipoprotein E (APOE). This gene is linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers are still learning if fish’s benefits are caused by healthy n-3 fatty acids or by more complex sources.
Head Injuries Build Up Alzheimer’s Plaques
Moderate to severe head injuries lead to accumulated amyloid plaques in the brain, researchers have discovered. Amyloid plaque buildup is a sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
The study built on previous research, which uncovered the link between traumatic brain injury (TBI) and dementia. Study participants with TBI had amyloid plaques in the cerebellum, the area of the brain responsible for motor control.
Study author David Sharp noted that “More and more evidence suggests brain trauma can trigger long-term processes that may be harmful.” The next step is a larger study with a more diverse group. Researchers also hope to develop treatments that target these long-term processes.
Should you avoid contact sports, which include risk of concussions? Sharp says it’s too soon to tell. He notes the difference between concussions, a mild head injury, and a single severe head injury. Still, he says the two have “pathological similarities.”