Swedish Brain Power researcher Agneta Nordberg has long drawn attention to a kind of change in the brain that may be a very early sign of Alzheimer’s disease, long before any symptoms of the disease appear. Now her research group at Karolinska Institutet has shown that it is likely to be an accumulation of the brain’s most common support cells, astrocytes, which can cause this change as far as 20 years before we can see the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
The amount astrocytes is highest at a very early stage and then decreases as the amyloid plaques, that cause cell death in the brain, takes over. The researchers still do not know why the astrocytes activates but according to Agneta Nordberg it may be a defense mechanism.
– Since earlier we know that astrocytes try to eat the amyloid plaque when they begin to accumulate in Alzheimer’s. It may be that they can not handle it, and then the pathological plaques take over, says Agneta Nordberg in a statement.
According to Agneta Nordberg this new discovery could mean that astrocytes might be a possible target for developing new drugs and preventive treatment but she stresses the need for much more research to get there.
The study was supported by the Swedish Brain Power and published in the journal Brain.