Scientists at Oregon Health and Science University have made a development that could lead to a greater understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.
They discovered a new cause for the diseases that impact cognitive functioning.
“We’ve missed a major form of cell death in Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia,” senior author of the study Dr. Stephen Back told OHSU in a news release. “We hadn’t been giving much attention to microglia as vulnerable cells, and white matter injury in the brain has received relatively little attention.”
The researchers found that ferroptosis, a type of cell death that results from a buildup of iron in cells, destroys a form of cell involved in the brain’s immune response called microglia cells. This occurs in Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia cases.
Essentially, the degeneration of the microglia may be a factor in furthering cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia patients.
The study, in which researchers studied post-mortem human brain tissue from dementia patients, was published in the peer-reviewed journal Annals of Neurology.
Microglia deteriorates in the Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia patient’s white matter of the brain, scientists found.
According to Medical News Today, microglia are native brain cells that normally act to remove cellular waste as part of your body’s immune system.
Microglia cleans up debris when myelin is damaged. Myelin acts as an insulator and protective covering for your brain’s nerve fibers, according to OHSU.
However, researchers found that microglia are demolished while getting rid of myelin, which is heavily rich in iron. This sabotage happens through a form of cell death named ferroptosis.
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