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Study Suggests Blood-Brain Barrier Leaks Associated With Alzheimer’s Disease

First Posted: Jun 06, 2016 04:00 AM EDT
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The brains of patients in the early phases of Alzheimer's disease may likely have more "leaks" in barriers that separate it from the bloodstream. According to a study published in the journal Radiology, the so-called "blood-brain barrier" has tightly joined cells which mark the brain's blood vessels. These barriers make a filtration system that enables specific essential substances like sugar and water in the brain, preventing possibly damaging substances.  

While the blood-brain barrier leaks findings suggest that these can be detected in Alzheimer's patients, it is not also clear what this means. Assistant clinical professor of neurological surgery Dr. Ezriel Kornel of Well Cornell Medical College in New York City, who was not part of the study, said that it was not known if the leakage was caused by the disease or any other thing. Similarly, it was also not known what happens in the leaky portions that are seen in the brain scans of the patients, Forbes reported.

In theory, the leaks may be the passage of toxic substances to come into the  brain, however, the study was not able to prove such. According to the director of Byrd Alzheimer's Institute David Morgan, who is not involved in the study as well, noted that this is an interesting issue, considering that the researchers know the pathological changes linked to Alzheimer's start at least 15 years prior to the emergence of the symptoms. Initially, there is an unusual formation of proteins known as amyloid, but no symptoms yet since the brain can still make up for the protein deposits.

But eventually, another form of abnormality emerges, which is the twisted fibers of a protein named "tau," as explained by Dr. Morgan.

In general, the researchers discovered patients with Alzheimer's showed more leaky portions across the brain, and that the more leakage they had in the gray matter of the brain, the worse the patients did on the tests of mental abilities such as memory.  

The damaged blood-brain barrier may contribute to the Alzheimer's by enabling specific cells to enter the brain, therefore, cause the inflammation and nerve damage as well based on the findings. If proven true, Dr. Morgan believes that there is no clear way to intervene, according to Science Daily.

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