The World Health Organization statistics suggest that over 47.5 million people worldwide have Alzheimer's disease or some other type of dementia. Despite decades of research, the only medications currently available help treat the symptoms alone. Canadian researchers have now discovered an abnormal build-up of fat in the brain of patients who died from the Alzheimer's disease. They have also identified the nature of the fat and suggest that these fat droplets may cause and accelerate the progression of Alzheimer's disease. This discovery opens up a new avenue in the search for a medication to cure or slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease.
Karl Fernandes, professor at University of Montreal in Canada, said, "We found fatty acid deposits in the brain of patients who died from the disease and in mice that were genetically modified to develop Alzheimer's disease. Our experiments suggest that these abnormal fat deposits could be a trigger for the disease."
In experiments with mice predisposed to develop the disease, the research team found fat droplets near the stem cells, on the inner surface of the brain. When they examined the brains of nine patients who died from Alzheimer's disease, they found significantly more fat droplets compared with five healthy brains. Using an advanced mass spectrometry technique, the scientists identified these fat deposits as triglycerides enriched with specific fatty acids, which can also be found in animal fats and vegetable oils.
Fernandes said, "We discovered that these fatty acids are produced by the brain, that they build up slowly with normal aging, but that the process is accelerated significantly in the presence of genes that predispose to Alzheimer's disease."
The study was published in Cell Stem Cell.