Protein linked to Alzheimer's discovered in brains as young as 20

Posted Mar 2, 2015 by Marcus Hondro
In a study released today, researchers at Northwestern University in Illinois found traces of the protein amyloid in patients as young as 20. The abnormal protein is a cause of Alzheimer's Disease and other dementia.
PET scans showing the differences between a normal older adult s brain and the brain of an older adu...
PET scans showing the differences between a normal older adult's brain and the brain of an older adult afflicted with Alzheimer's disease.
National Institutes of Health
Alzheimer's: clumps of plaque
Amyloid forms clumps of plaque on neurons in elderly patients with Alzheimer's and while science has long been aware it does, this is the first time any trace of amyloid has been found on the neurons of young persons. Dr. Changiz Geula, the lead author of the study, said it was a outcome they were not expecting.
"Discovering that amyloid begins to accumulate so early in life is unprecedented," he said in a statement. "This is very significant. We know that amyloid, when present for long periods of time, is bad for you."
Published in the journal Brain, the study looked at the brains of 50 deceased persons. Thirteen were the brains of people who'd had no symptoms of Alzheimer's in the age-range of 20 through 66; 16 were also from persons with no signs of the Alzheimer's but between 70 to 99; the final 21 brains were from persons between 60 to 95 who had been Alzheimer's patients.
Protein leads to Alzheimer's
The amyloids were found forming on neurons in the brains of all ages — the older the person, the larger these clumps had grown. The largest clumps of amyloids were consistently found in the brains of the Alzheimer's patients.
The amyloid clumps damage neurons in the brain, eventually killing neurons. Dr. Geula said that over a lifetime the clumps of amyloids "contributes to the vulnerability of these cells to pathology in aging and loss in Alzheimer's."
Dr. Geula said they will do more studies.
“What this means is these neurons are susceptible to accumulate at a young age, but that the clumping really occurs in aging," he said. "During life, the substance needed to make clumps is available. And if you have susceptibility to form clumps, this could worsen.
"In this study, we didn’t have a huge number of brains," he added. "And this doesn’t mean that because young people have a measure of amyloids that everyone is going to get Alzheimer’s. It’s not an alarm."
He said there are things known to cause amyloids to form and there are manners of lessening, if not eliminating, the chances they will. A healthy diet, exercise and generally good health habits can lessen the chance of encountering Alzheimer's in a lifetime.
Dr. Geula said the study suggests that the earlier you develop a healthy lifestyle, the better chance you'll have of avoiding Alzheimer's.