Blood sugar loss may trigger Alzheimer's disease

January 02, 2009

A slow, steady and chronic reduction of the supply of sugar to the brain could trigger some forms of Alzheimer's disease according to researchers at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. The study both human and mouse, suggests a reduction of blood flow deprives energy to the brain, setting off a process that ultimately produces the sticky clumps of protein researchers believe is a cause of the disease, they state. "This finding is significant because it suggests that improving blood flow to the brain might be an effective therapeutic approach to prevent or treat Alzheimer's," Dr. Vassar who led the study said in a statement. "If people start early enough, maybe they can dodge the bullet." Alzheimer's disease is incurable and is the most common form of dementia among older people. It affects the regions of the brain involving thought, memory and language.
Drugs have focused on removing clumps of beta amyloid protein that forms the Alzheimer’s plaques in the brain. However, researchers also are looking at therapies to address the toxic tangles caused by an abnormal build-up of the protein tau. The scientists analyzed human and mice brains to discover that a protein called elF2alpha is altered when the brain does not get enough energy. This boosts production of an enzyme that in turn flips a switch to produce the sticky protein clumps. The findings are published in the journal Neuron.