In a shocking revelation, a study found that Alzheimer’s disease that is hitherto believed to hit elderly people actually begins to form as early as age 20.
The risk of developing Alzheimer’s later in life is actually sown at the age of 20 in some people has virtually reversed the past belief among the scientists as it begins too early in some people with the Amyloid, an abnormal protein whose accumulation in the brain triggers the disease. It starts accumulating inside neurons of young humans brains, said researchers.
Amyloid is known to accumulate and form clumps of plaque outside neurons in ageing adults and causing the Alzheimer’s. “Discovering that amyloid begins to accumulate so early in life is unprecedented. This is very significant. We know that amyloid, when present for long periods of time, is bad for you,” said Changiz Geula from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
Guela and his team of scientists came across the new finding when they were examining basal forebrain cholinergic neurons to try to understand why they are damaged early in some individuals, causing memory and attention loss.
The team has examined these neurons from the brains of three groups of dead individuals and found that amyloid molecules began accumulating inside these neurons in young adulthood and continued throughout their lifespan.
Compared to other nerve cells in the brain, these amyloid molecules formed small toxic clumps, amyloid oligomers, which were present even in individuals in their 20’s and many other normal young individuals.
During the old age, the size of the clumps grew larger especialy among those with Alzheimer’s.
Confirming that the small clumps of amyloid may be the key reason for Alzheimer’s, the authors said in their research paper:”The lifelong accumulation of amyloid in these neurons likely contributes to the vulnerability of these cells to pathology in ageing and loss in Alzheimer’s.” The study has been published in the journal Brain.
Guela noted that “it is also possible that the clumps get so large, the degradation machinery in the cell cannot get rid of them and they clog it up.” The team plans to embark upon the next phase of investigation as to how the internal amyloid damages the neurons.
Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging, though it is a greatest risk factor and the majority of people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older. It is not just a disease of old age and up to five percent of people with the disease have early onset of Alzheimer’s during their 40s or 50s.
For the first time, the new study has shown that it begins to form in some individuals as early as age 20.