Brain Cholesterol May Increase Alzheimer's Disease Risk

Image for representational purpose only

Image for representational purpose only

Although notorious as a molecule linked with cardiovascular disease, cholesterol is a terribly important compound, present in the membranes that surround all our cells.

As mentioned in the related article of the journal Nature Chemistry, worldwide scientific team led specialists Cambridge University discovered that brain cholesterol acts as a catalyst which promotes the formation of toxic blocks beta-amyloid protein, which is already known to play a central role on the development of Alzheimer's disease.

We're all too familiar with the devastating consequences of Alzheimer's disease, but scientists are still working to figure out how it starts in the brain.

The Cambridge researchers found that cholesterol, which is one of the main components of cell walls in neurons, can trigger amyloid-beta molecules to aggregate.

Amyloid-beta does attach itself to lipid molecules, however, which are sticky and insoluble, the researcher said. Up to 25 percent of all cholesterol in the body is found in the brain, and studies have shown without that cholesterol our brains simply do not function.

For the time being, however, it is not clear whether this new observation concerns both dietary cholesterol, which does not penetrate the blood brain barrier. For some, cholesterol-reducing medications may result in protective effects on cognition by reducing the aggregation of amyloid beta clusters in the brain that lead to Alzheimer's, while for others the drugs could possibly be problematic.

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While the relationship b-amyloid and Alzheimer's disease are well thought out, so far scientists have not made it clear that the accumulation of the protein in the brain begins after normally remains low.

But because cholesterol plays a vital role in the normal functioning of cells, it's not a good idea to try and reduce the concentration of cholesterol in the brain.

"The question for us now is not how to eliminate cholesterol from the brain, but about how to control cholesterol's role in Alzheimer's disease through the regulation of its interaction with amyloid-beta", says Vendruscolo.

Over recent years, there has been divisive and inconclusive research regarding the effect of cholesterol-lowering statins on cognitive function.

Cholesterol requires specific protein carriers to ferry it around the brain, and as we get older, these carriers become less effective - the chemical imbalance that causes could be one area for future research.

The latest statistics show 47 million people now living with Alzheimer's across the world, and with that figure expected to rise sharply in the future, the race is on to try and understand more about how Alzheimer's takes hold - and how it can be stopped.

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