The supplement NAC may protect against developing Alzheimer’s disease in a very novel way

August 10, 2012

The blood brain barrier protects the brain acting as a highly selective filter and a powerful shield for the brain. The BBB is made out of millions of tiny blood vessels that coordinate activity with protective glial cells. The BBB blocks the entry of harmful agents into the brain; this includes blocking the entry of toxins and viruses, while allowing the entrance of essential nutrients.

Beta amyloid is a protein that the brain uses for a number of important activities and it is made in the brain. All brains need beta amyloid but healthy brains can dispose of it after its use. However, the brains of Alzheimer’s patients can no longer dispose of the protein and it builds up in their neurons and causes destruction and brain cell death resulting in massive brain damage. Beta amyloid is a major component of the plaque in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients. It becomes toxic to the brain causing lesions in a fashion similar to prion diseases such as that contracted through eating meat from animals with mad cow disease.

As it turns out part of the reason why the beta amyloid protein builds up in the brain is because it becomes trapped by an inflamed BBB which no longer works properly. Giving the supplement NAC prevented the induction of inflammation in the BBB of animals. This allowed beta amyloid to exit the brain in a more normal fashion. NAC may have a novel way in which it prevents beta amyloid accumulation in the brain caused by inflammation and therefore protecting against Alzheimer’s disease. The study was performed at Saint Louis University and at Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System and is published in the journal Brain Behavior and Immunity.