breath of fresh air to Alzheimer's sufferers
discovery Dr Chris Peers with his research team,
(l-r) Ian Smith, John Boyle and Kim Green
Leeds scientist researching the effects of low oxygen
on the body believes he has identified a cause of Alzheimer's
disease low levels of oxygen reaching brain cells.
Dr Chris Peers, of the Institute of Cardiovascular Research,
was looking at how nerve cells, grown in culture in the
laboratory, adapt to hypoxia, or low oxygen levels. He
noticed that the hypoxic cells produced high levels of
a protein called Amyloid-beta-peptide (AbP), also produced
in large quantities by Alzheimer's patients. This protein
is thought to kill the nerve cells in the brain, causing
Peers' discovery explains for the first time why people
with certain diseases which restrict oxygen, such as chronic
pulmonary disorder, are prone to Alzheimer's, and offers
a reason why more people who live at high altitude appear
to suffer from the disease.
patients who have suffered a stroke which involves
a deprivation of oxygen are much more likely to
suffer dementia. According to a recent US study, 15% of
non-stroke sufferers aged 60-70 suffer dementia, whereas
amongst stroke patients this rises to 50%.
Peers explains: "AbP has been linked for some time with
Alzheimer's disease, but this is the first time that oxygen
deprivation has been linked to over-production of the
protein. We know that AbP is formed from a bigger protein
by two enzymes, and drug companies are already investing
heavily in possible enzyme blockers.
the body must create AbP for a reason, and to really find
a way to prevent Alzheimer's, we need to find out why
and what goes wrong to cause the disease. Our discovery
adds a potentially important piece to this puzzle."
Peers has published papers on his discovery in the Journal
of Biological Chemistry and the Journal of Neurochemistry,
and has gained funding from the Medical Research Council,
the Wellcome Trust and the Alzheimer's Society to continue
his research. He hopes to identify exactly how hypoxia
causes a buildup of AbP, and what effect the protein has
on normal cells to cause dementia.