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Alzheimer's Disease

Plaque associated with Alzheimer’s seen in 20 year olds

Brain protein tied to Alzheimer’s spotted in young adults

Researchers have observed build-up of amyloid, a plaque linked to Alzheimer’s disease, in people as young as 20 but aren’t yet sure what it means

What it does prove, however, is that the plant that produces the clumps of plaque seen among AD patients is present from a young age itself, says Changiz Geula, a research professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago who conducted the study. The implication is clear: “If we want to prevent these clumps from forming then the intervention must start much earlier than we thought.” The study was on brain tissue of 48 deceased people ranging in age from 20 to 99.

The chief AD culprit is an abnormal protein, or “amyloid”, which is known to aggregate around specialised brain cells called neurons mainly among seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s. “Although we are still not 100 per cent sure that Amyloid or plaque causes AD, there is no doubt that it is bad. It may or may not be the main trigger for Alzheimer’s, but for a long time it has been known that it causes toxic damage and cannot be good for you when it accumulates,” says Geula. “What took us by surprise is the presence of amyloid inside the nerve cells of individuals as young as 20.” The findings appear in Brain.

“But just how much variability there is among the general population remains unclear,” Geula admitted. Some of the old people studied had amounts of amyloid that were closer to levels seen among the young, the study found. “What we need to do now is look at a large number of elderly to see whether the ones who have more amyloid face a higher risk for Alzheimer’s or poorer [thinking] abilities,” Geula said.

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