Dementia is a generic term used to describe a wide range of diseases related to brain malfunction that leads to memory loss and an inability to perform daily tasks (Alzheimer's Association). Alzheimer's disease is the most widely known form of dementia and accounts for the majority of dementia cases.
Neurofibrillary tangles and beta-amyloid plaques are highly associated with cases of Alzheimer's, and they occur 10-15 years before noticeable characteristics of the disease.
However, a few cases of dementia occur that lack these typical lesions. Scientists from the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience have now begun to explain the cause of disease in these patients: a new pathway to neuronal dysfunction resulting from DNA damage. The Sheffield Scientists explored how DNA strand breaks from oxidative stress during oxidative metabolism increased as a result of aging, similarly to increasing numbers of tangles and plaques in other Alzheimer's cases.
Approximately 20% of the elderly population suffering from dementia show to be cases of DNA damage due to oxidative stress from aging. The Sheffield scientists visualized this damage in donated brain tissue from patients with dementia (without neurofibrillary tangles or beta amyloid plaques) in comparison to non-DNA damaged, healthy control samples of brain tissue.
The scientists will continue uncovering the interactions between processes damaging DNA in the neurons, and plan to "potentially reveal novel dementia biomarkers, cellular pathways and specific therapeutic targets." This is knowledge highly sought after considering our aging population and subsequent increasing group of potential dementia patients. Alzheimer's disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and it costs hundreds of billions of dollars each year to care for dementia patients (Alzheimer's Association). Although dementia remains incurable, discerning new therapeutic targets is always a promising stepping stone to discovering how to reverse the devastating impact of this disease.
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