Scientists take another important step to solve the mystery of Alzheimer's

It's all about the circadian rhythms!
Loukia Papadopoulos
MRI brain scan.haydenbird/iStock

Alzheimer's has long been a mystery as researchers work hard to try and figure out a way to prevent and even cure the debilitating condition.

There may be help on the way. A new study published in Plos Genetics is revealing that the condition may be directly linked to circadian rhythms.

The finding may lead to a new preventative treatment, one that this time may actually work.

The mystery of Alzheimer's resolved?

“Understanding how our circadian rhythms can regulate cell-surface heparan levels to control the build-up of amyloid-beta may lead to the development of chronotherapeutics that alleviates the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease as well as other inflammatory diseases," said in a press release Jennifer Hurley of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute who led the study.

What did the researchers find? Their work revealed that the immune cells responsible for clearing away a key protein that accumulates in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease function according to daily circadian rhythms, the 24-hour cycles that control many elements of human physiology. 

This key finding may lead to a potential explanation for the link between Alzheimer's disease and disruptions to a person's sleep cycle. Past studies have already found that sleep disruptions can be early indicators of Alzheimer's as they begin years before symptoms of the disease appear and are an indication of a higher risk of developing the condition.

The new research evaluated the activity of immune cells responsible for clearing away proteins called amyloid-beta that build up as plaques in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease. The scientists found that the immune cells clear away the amyloid-beta on a cycle determined by circadian rhythms.

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A molecular mechanism identified 

Any glitch in that rhythm resulted in the disappearance of the daily cycle and therefore an increased accumulation of dangerous amyloid-beta proteins. From there, the scientists deduced that a molecular mechanism potentially responsible for the connection between Alzheimer's disease and circadian rhythms existed and played a key role in the development of the condition.

Could this be the breakthrough that leads to an Alzheimer's treatment that actually works? It's hard to tell since the research is still in its early stages, but the findings already present a potential for avoiding the disease. If the daily clearance of amyloid-beta proteins can be maintained, patients may be less likely to develop the disease and or at the very least suffer from less severe symptoms.

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