Having disrupted sleep leads to increase in brain proteins associated with Alzheimer's disease, results of a study showed Monday. "We were not surprised to find that tau levels didn't budge after just one night of disrupted sleep while amyloid levels did, because amyloid levels normally change more quickly than tau levels," Yo-El Ju, assistant professor of neurology and the lead study author, said in a statement. "I think that may lead to chronically elevated amyloid levels, which animal studies have shown lead to increased risk of amyloid plaques and Alzheimer's." "As Alzheimer's disease progresses, caregiving becomes very important," Christopher Taylor, a CDC epidemiologist who led the study team, told the news outlet at the time.
Another one bites the dust. Pharmaceutical giant Merck has halted a trial of a promising Alzheimer's drug, verubecestat, after it was determined that there was virtually no chance of it working. This comes just two months after the failure of another Alzheimer's drug, solanezumab. Both drugs target beta amyloid plaque, the sticky gunk that accumulates in the brains of people with the disease. These failures have revived doubts over the long-held theory that beta amyloid is crucial in causing the disease.
The root cause of Alzheimer's, a progressive disease that as of 2013 affects some 5 million Americans, is still not completely understood. Researchers know that hallmarks of the disease are tiny balls of plaque that accumulate in Alzheimer's patients' brains. But how and why they form was still pretty much a mystery. Now, researchers at Harvard University, made a surprising finding: Proteins in the brain leftover from fighting off common infections like from a virus or a bacteria, clump together and create the plaque that is ubiquitously found in Alzheimer's patients. The new research, published yesterday in the journal Science, could pave the way to more precise research on how to stop or prevent the disease.
Just one night of bad sleep may lead to more of a protein linked to Alzheimer's disease building up in the brain. People with Alzheimer's disease tend to have sticky clumps of beta-amyloid protein in their brains, although the roll these plaques play in the condition is unclear. It's possible this protein helps cause the condition, or instead that the protein forms plaques in the brain in response to the disease. Now researchers have found that one night of poor sleep has a detectable effect on the levels of beta-amyloid in the brain. Ehsan Shokri-Kojori, at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, and his team discovered this by using a radioactive tracer to measure beta-amyloid in the brains of 20 volunteers over the course of two nights.
Laura Lewis and her team of researchers have been putting in late nights in their Boston University lab. Lewis ran tests until around 3:00 in the morning, then ended up sleeping in the next day. It was like she had jet lag, she says, without changing time zones. It's not that Lewis doesn't appreciate the merits of a good night's sleep. But when you're trying to map what's happening in a slumbering human's brain, you end up making some sacrifices.