A team of researchers from Trinity worked with the Dublin Brain Bank, in Beaumont Hospital, to compare brain tissue of individuals who had the disease during their lifetime with the results of those observed in model systems in the laboratory.
"We have shown that distinct components of these blood vessels termed tight junctions are altered in Alzheimer's disease," commented Dr James Keaney, a Postdoctoral researcher in Trinity's School of Genetics and Microbiology and lead author of the study.
Currently, more than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease. Out of them, more than 4,00,000 people have Down syndrome. Both the groups have similar looking brains with very high levels of protein amyloid-beta.
"People with Down syndrome represent the world's largest population of predetermined Alzheimer's disease. By studying these individuals, we can develop insights into how Alzheimer's disease naturally progresses and potential drug targets," commented Michael Rafii, MD, PhD, assistant professor of neurosciences and interim co-director of the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS) at UC San Diego.
The 3-year long study known as Down Syndrome Biomarker Initiative involved 12 participants with Down syndrome whose condition was tracked over time. The participants were aged between the ranges 30 to 60.
The researchers found that patients with Down syndrome develop the amyloid protein at more than twice the rate.
The study looked at how quickly the protein formed and where exactly it formed within the brain and how it had affected the cognitive ability of the participants.
The researchers used extensive neuroimaging which included volumetric MRI, FDG PET, amyloid PET and retinal amyloid imaging to quantify the amount of amyloid that was present in the brain of the patients at various stages of the study.
"This study shows some of the earliest known Alzheimer's disease biomarker changes in adults with Down syndrome and underscores the need for additional studies. This study will set the stage for the first clinical trial of anti-beta amyloid therapy in the preclinical treatment of Alzheimer's disease in adults with Down syndrome," wrote the researchers.
The researchers also revealed that Alzheimer's disease can be avoided if stress is avoided. The stress coping hormone, called CRF, increases the production amyloid beta, which clump together and trigger the brain degeneration that leads to Alzheimer's disease.
The study was published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.