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Amyloid protein buildup could account for memory loss

December 7, 2015
by Nicole Stempak, Associate Editor
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The accumulation of amyloid proteins around blood vessels in the brain is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, and scientists are learning more about why these proteins are harmful, according to recent findings published in the journal Brain.

Researchers at Virginia Tech Carilion Institute and University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine discovered the accumulation of vascular amyloid plaques along blood vessels in the brain disrupt blood flow regulation of astrocytes, the most common cell type in the brain.

“Vascular amyloid may be the culprit in Alzheimer’s disease symptoms, especially considering that the amyloid exoskeleton might limit the supply of oxygen and glucose to the brain regions that need them most,” says Harald Sontheimer, director of the Center for Glial Biology in Health, Disease and Cancer at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and senior author of the paper in a news release. “This could also explain the cognitive decline in people with Alzheimer’s disease, as the disease is associated with reduced cerebral blood flow,”

In a healthy brain, amyloid protein fragments are routinely broken down and eliminated. Researchers will next study blood vessels once the amyloid deposits are removed.

Learn more about the study here.

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