As the Alzheimer’s epidemic continues to rage, scientists seek to understand what causes the disease, how to prevent it and ultimately, how to cure it. As they learn more about the pathology of disease, a new study suggests that fatty acid metabolites in the brain may affect cognitive abilities and play a role in the progression of Alzheimer’s.
Learn more about this study and its potential impact on future Alzheimer’s and dementia research and treatment methods.
Study Finds Six Unsaturated Fatty Acids in Brain Tissue of People with Alzheimer’s
The study, composed of an international research team led by Cristina Legido-Quigley from King’s College London and Madhav Thambisetty of the National Institute on Aging, analyzed the effects of 100 different fatty acid metabolites in the brain tissue of seniors. The 43 participants, who were between the ages of 57 and 95, were part of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging and had undergone cognitive assessments in the year before their death.
The participants were divided into three groups: heathy brains, brains with beta amyloid plaques or a build up of tau protein but no memory loss, and brains with Alzheimer’s disease.
Improper Regulation of Unsaturated Fatty Acids May Drive Alzheimer’s
By looking at the levels of fatty acid metabolites in the brain regions commonly associated with Alzheimer’s (the middle frontal gyrus and the inferior temporal gyrus), as well as the cerebellum (not typical affected by Alzheimer’s), researchers discovered that six unsaturated fatty acids (UFAs) were found in the part of the brain affected by the disease.
Legido-Quigley and her team explain the importance of their study, saying, “[This] work suggests that dysregulation of UFA’s metabolism plays a role in driving AD pathology and that these results provide further evidence for the metabolic basis of AD pathogenesis.”
She went on to say, “While this was a small study, our results show a potentially crucial and unexpected role for fats in the onset of dementia. Most surprisingly we found that a supposedly beneficial omega3, DHA, actually increased with the progression of the disease. It is now important for us to build on and replicate these findings in a larger study and see whether it corroborates our initial findings.”
The team admits that their study shows a correlation, and not a causation, and they hoping for more, larger, studies to be done to better understand the relationship between improper regulation of UFAs and brain health.