Scientists still don’t understand what causes Alzheimer’s but are beginning to see it as a “whole body” problem that manifests in the brain
03/15/2019 // Rita Winters // Views

Alzheimer's disease is a condition all pensioners do not want to be diagnosed with. It has no known cure, and its effects are depressing. Many scientists and researchers used to think that Alzheimer's disease starts in the brain. However, new research published in Molecular Psychiatry shows that the disease may be caused outside of the brain.

Looking at the bigger picture

Neurodegenerative diseases are somewhat difficult to manage and treat, due to the brain being a complex and sensitive organ. So instead of targeting the brain, researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC) looked at the bigger picture -- the body. According to the study led by Dr. Weihong Song, Alzheimer's may be caused by debilitating proteins, called beta-amyloids, from the kidney and liver, which travels via the blood stream to reach the brain. Beta-amyloids usually clump together to form insoluble plaques in nerves that cause disruption of electrical signals.

Song, together with Yan-Jiang Wang, demonstrated how the protein moves around using a technique called parabiosis. This technique is done by attaching two mice so that they share the same blood supply. These mice do not normally develop Alzheimer's disease, therefore scientists had to modify one of the mice to carry a mutant human gene that produces high levels of beta-amyloids. Results show that the healthy mouse connected to the modified one contracted Alzheimer's after a year. Aside from the plaques, the mice also developed tangles of protein strands inside their brain cells, disrupting the functions of the organ, and eventually caused their demise.


As people age, the blood-brain barrier (BBB), which separates circulating blood from the brain, weakens. This may be the reason why beta-amyloids from other parts of the body are able to infiltrate the brain. Beta-amyloids are naturally produced in the brain, but beta-amyloids from other parts of the brain accelerate the clumping process and hasten the effects neurodegenerative conditions. If researchers could develop some way to biochemically “tag” these beta-amyloids, the liver and the kidneys may be able to process and expel them from the body.

What you need to know about Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer's disease is a chronic neurodegenerative disease wherein an individual develops a difficulty in remembering things. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than breast and prostate cancer combined. Every 66 seconds, someone in the country develops Alzheimer's, and more than five million Americans are currently living with the disease – it may even rise up to 16 million by 2050 if left ignored.

It is frightening to be diagnosed with the disease, but it may be prevented with a healthy lifestyle.

  • Wear those running shoes – With regular exercise, you can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease up to 50 percent. The Alzheimer's Research & Prevention Foundation suggests at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise weekly.
  • Go out on lunch dates – Social engagement helps keep you occupied, and emotions from these encounters stimulate your brain to be active. You don't need to be an extrovert – just call up a friend or two and enjoy a cup of coffee.
  • Eat those fruits and vegetables – Almost all diseases can be prevented, managed, and reversed with a healthy diet. Fruits and vegetables supply your body with the vitamins and minerals it lacks, so make sure to include this in your daily meal plan.
  • Answer a sudoku puzzle or two – Keep your brain on its tippy-toes by engaging in mental challenges such as puzzles, crosswords, and other situations that require logic. You can also do this by enrolling in a community class, or by volunteering as a teacher for kids at the shelter.
  • Get those Zzzs – Staying up late not only deprives you of your daily energy needs, but it also causes your whole body to degenerate faster. Make sure to get at least seven to nine hours of sleep a day.
  • Keep your stress levels in check – Your life may revolve around work, but health is what really determines your life. Remember to breath, keep a sense of humor, and take some time to relax and meditate.

Read for more stories about Alzheimer's disease.

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