Affects Alzheimer's men or women more

Why women are more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease

Status: 06.06.2017 3:58 pm | archive
Women are significantly more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than men.

Alzheimer's is one of the diseases that many people are particularly afraid of. Little by little, nerve cells in the brain die off. Those affected lose orientation, memory and awareness. Researchers have found that women are significantly more likely to develop Alzheimer's than men. With them, the destruction of the brain usually progresses faster.

Alzheimer's risk increases with menopause

Women have a longer life expectancy than men. This alone increases the likelihood of illness. But by the age of 65, women are almost twice as likely to get Alzheimer's. Apparently, the female sex hormones play an important role, especially the estrogens. They protect nerve cells and especially their interfaces, the synapses.

Recent studies have shown that estrogens are not only produced in the ovaries, but also in the brain, in what is known as the hippocampus. This part of the brain is important for learning and memory functions and is particularly badly affected in Alzheimer's disease. During menopause there is often a sharp drop in protective estrogens in the hippocampus. Researchers suspect that this declining estrogen production could be a cause of the high proportion of women in Alzheimer's disease. If the hypothesis is correct, an artificial supply of estrogen into the brain could be a promising therapeutic approach.

To do this, however, the body's own production of estrogen in the hippocampus would have to be stimulated. Estrogen taken in pill form does not reach the brain in sufficient quantities. Estrogen cannot be injected into the brain either.

Symptoms long before the onset of the disease

New research suggests that memory disorders can signal the onset of dementia, but not the actual onset of Alzheimer's disease. This likely begins many years or decades before symptoms first appear. For a therapy to be successful, the disease must be recognized at a stage in which no irreversible damage to the nerve cells has yet occurred. However, it is very difficult to recognize this point in time.

Inflammation in the brain from proteins

When Alzheimer's disease develops, inflammation processes and deposits of proteins (beta-amyloids) in the brain occur. In healthy people, the proteins are removed from the brain to the same extent in which they are also produced. In the brain of Alzheimer's sufferers, on the other hand, the breakdown does not work quickly enough. Insoluble protein fragments accumulate. They clump together to form larger deposits called amyloid plaques, which damage nerve cells and synapses.

The protein deposits lead to a false reaction of the immune system. The immune cells interpret the protein deposits as an enemy that has to be removed from the brain. That is why they release inflammatory substances, but also damage the surrounding nerve cells. The immune system's response leads to permanent inflammation in the brain.

Inflammatory substances blocked in animal experiments

Researchers are working to stop inflammation in the brain to stop Alzheimer's disease. Scientists from the Berlin Charité have already been successful in animal experiments: while healthy mice are always interested in new objects, a mouse with Alzheimer's disease shows no interest. If certain inflammatory substances are blocked in Alzheimer's mice with medication, their behavior normalizes and they become interested in new objects again. The drugs improved the condition of the already sick mice and, if treated early, ensured that the disease would later be less pronounced.

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Visit | 06/06/2017 | 8:15 pm