01 September 2015

Brain obesity

Brain fat was blamed for Alzheimer's disease

Elena Subbotina, Rossiyskaya Gazeta Scientists have made a new breakthrough in the study of Alzheimer's disease, which in the future may lead to the development of effective treatments.

They found that abnormal fatty deposits in the brain may cause the development of this disease or accelerate its course.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, or senile dementia. It can begin in people over the age of 65, but there is also early Alzheimer's disease – a rare form of the disease. According to forecasts, by 2050, the number of people suffering from Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia will increase to about 44 million people.

Initially, researchers were trying to figure out why stem cells, which usually repair damage in the brain, are inactive in Alzheimer's disease.

They were amazed when they found "fat droplets" (oleic acids) near stem cells in the brains of mice that had a type of Alzheimer's disease.

Diagram from an article in the journal Cell Stem Cell:
Hamilton et al. Aberrant Lipid Metabolism in the Forebrain Niche Suppresses Adult Neural Stem Cell Proliferation
in an Animal Model of Alzheimer's Disease
– VM.Later, scientists compared brain samples of nine patients who died of Alzheimer's disease and five people who died without this disease.

It turned out that there were significantly more "fat droplets" in the brains of people affected by Alzheimer's disease. The researchers were able to determine the type of these fat deposits. It turned out that these are triglycerides enriched with special fatty acids, which can also be found in animal fats and vegetable oils.

"We found that these fatty acids are produced by the brain and that they accumulate slowly with normal aging. However, this process is significantly accelerated in the presence of genes that predispose to Alzheimer's disease," said the author of the study, Professor Carl Fernandez from the University of Montreal (in a press release Alzheimer's disease is thought to be accelerated by an abnormal build–up of fat in the brain – VM).

Experiments have shown that fatty acid deposits accumulate very quickly in the brains of mice predisposed to the disease – in just 2 months.

"Thus, we believe that the accumulation of fatty acids in the brain is not a consequence, but rather the cause or catalyst of the disease," says Professor Fernandez.

Inhibitor drugs tested for metabolic diseases (such as obesity) are able to block the activity of the enzyme that produces these fatty acids and stop their accumulation. Tests on mice predisposed to the disease have already confirmed this.

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