Fat “Droplets” in Brain Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease

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Marji_300815A new study published in the journal Cell Stem Cell suggests that an abnormal buildup of fat droplets in the brain may be the cause of Alzheimer’s disease or could speed up its development.

The researchers first noticed the fat droplets near stem cells in the brains of rats bred to develop Alzheimer’s disease. After this finding, researchers went on to compare the brains of nine Alzheimer’s patients who died from the disease to the brains of five people who did not. Results showed a significant increase in fat droplets in the brains of the patients who had Alzheimer’s disease.

To further investigate their theory, researchers used advanced mass spectrometry (a technique used to determine the type and amount of chemicals in a sample) and found that the fat deposits were triglycerides enriched with specific fatty acids found in animal fats and vegetable oils.

Senior study author Karl Fernandes explains, “We discovered that these fatty acids are produced by the brain, that they build up slowly with normal aging, but the process is accelerated significantly in the presence of genes that predispose to Alzheimer’s disease.” He further notes that the researchers believe “the build-up of fatty acids is not a consequence but rather a cause or accelerator of the disease.”

Researchers conclude by noting that inhibitor drugs currently being tested for metabolic diseases have the ability to block the enzyme that produces these fatty acids and prevent them from building up in mice.

The World Health Organization estimates a total of 48 million people live with dementia worldwide; Alzheimer’s accounts for approximately 66% of these cases.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Hamilton, L., et al., “Aberrant lipid metabolism in the forebrain niche suppresses adult neural stem cell proliferation in an animal model of Alzheimer’s Disease,”Cell Stem Cell August 27, 2015, doi:10.1016/j.stem.2015.08.001.
Paddock, C. “Fat deposits in brain may hasten Alzheimer’s disease,” Medical News Today web site, August 28, 2015; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/298729.php.