In a new study, researchers found that the contraction of cells wrapped around blood vessels may contribute to cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s.
This can explain why reduced blood flow to the brain associated with early Alzheimer’s. The finding may open up a new way to potentially treat the disease.
The research was led by a team from University College London.
It is known that blood provides the brain’s energy supply in the form of glucose and oxygen.
Previous studies have suggested the first change in Alzheimer’s disease is a decrease in cerebral blood flow.
In the new study, the team looked at the cells wrapped around blood vessels that have the ability to contract and regulate blood flow.
Researchers examined blood vessels in Alzheimer’s-affected human brain tissue and in mice.
They found that they were squeezed by the cell pericytes.
The team then applied amyloid beta protein (which accumulates in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s) to healthy brain tissue and found that the blood vessels were squeezed as a result.
The team found the squeezing was severe enough to halve blood flow. This is comparable to the decrease in blood flow found in the brain affected by Alzheimer’s.
The findings identified the underlying mechanism behind the reduction of brain blood flow in Alzheimer’s disease for the first time.
The researchers hope the results can help develop new possible treatments in the early phase of Alzheimer’s disease.
The new treatments for Alzheimer’s will focus on keeping the pericytes relaxed.
The findings also raise the question of what fraction of the damage is a consequence of the decrease in energy supply that amyloid produces by constricting the brain’s finer blood vessels.
The lead author of the study is Dr. Ross Nortley (UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology).
The study is published in the journal Science.
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