The presence of beta-amyloid in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s is still revealing much about the pathology of the disease. One new study found that a low-dosage aspirin was able to reduce the amount of this toxic protein in mice that had been genetically modified to develop Alzheimer’s.
Learn more about the role of beta-amyloid in the disease and the correlation between aspirin and brain health.
Alzheimer’s and Beta-Amyloid Plaques
A protein that clumps together and breaks down communication between brain cells, beta-amyloid is a hallmark characteristic of Alzheimer’s. The toxic clusters trigger the brain’s immune cells, causing inflammation and leading to the death of neurons.
Exactly how beta-amyloid occurs, why its found in the brains of some people without Alzheimer’s and its relationship to the disease as a whole is still being investigated, but there’s no question that people who have been diagnosed with the disease have beta-amyloid present in their brains.
The “beta-amyloid theory” holds that the accumulation of this protein is the primary cause of the disease, although how and why these proteins get there in the first place is debated.
How Low-Dosage Aspirin Reduces Plaques in the Brain
Regardless of how the proteins accumulate, reducing their presence in the brain is a goal for Alzheimer’s researchers.
One recent study published in the Journal of Neuroscience and led by Dr. Kalipada Pahan, the Endowed Chair of Neurology and a professor of biochemistry, neurological sciences and pharmacology at the Rush Medical College in Chicago, found that low-dosage aspirin may be able to reduce the presence of amyloid.
“Understanding how plaques are cleared is important to developing effective drugs that stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dr. Pahan.
Using genetically modified mice so that they exhibited the brain pathology and symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s, researchers measured the amount of beta-amyloid in their brains and then put them on a low-dosage aspirin regimen.
“The results of our study [identify] a possible new role for one of the most widely used, common, over-the-counter medications in the world,” says Dr. Pahan. “More research needs to be completed, but the findings of our study [have] major potential implications for the therapeutic use of aspirin in [Alzheimer’s disease] and other dementia-related illnesses.”
Has aspirin helped yourself, a parent or a senior loved one manage Alzheimer’s? Share your experiences and thoughts with us in the comments below.