Sugar & Alzheimer’s
February 23, 2017
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A “tipping point” molecular link between blood sugar glucose and Alzheimer’s disease has been discovered by scientists at the UK’s University of Bath and King’s College London. They found that excess glucose damages a vital enzyme involved with inflammation response to the early stages of Alzheimer’s.
Diabetes patients have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared to healthy individuals. In Alzheimer’s disease abnormal proteins aggregate to form plaques and tangles in the brain which progressively damage the brain and lead to severe cognitive decline.
By studying brain samples from 30 people with and without Alzheimer’s using a technique to detect glycation, the scientists discovered that in the early stages of Alzheimer’s glycation damages an enzyme called MIF (macrophage migration inhibitory factor) which plays a role in immune response and insulin regulation.
MIF is involved in the response of brain cells called glia to the build-up of abnormal proteins in the brain during Alzheimer’s disease, and the researchers believe that inhibition and reduction of MIF activity caused by glycation could be the ‘tipping point’ in disease progression. It appears that as Alzheimer’s progresses, glycation of these enzymes increases.
Professor Jean can den Elsen from the University of Bath said: “We’ve shown that this enzyme is already modified by glucose in the brains of individuals at the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. We are now investigating if we can detect similar changes in blood.
“Normally MIF would be part of the immune response to the build-up of abnormal proteins in the brain, and we think that because sugar damage reduces some MIF functions and completely inhibits others that this could be a tipping point that allows Alzheimer’s to develop.
Dr Omar Kassaar, from the University of Bath, said: “Excess sugar is well known to be bad for us when it comes to diabetes and obesity, but this potential link with Alzheimer’s disease is yet another reason that we should be controlling our sugar intake in our diets.”
The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.