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New study may explain how fats damage neurons in Alzheimer's patients

lesterol levels. They also measured levels of fats in tissue samples from two different regions of the brains of deceased Alzheimer's patients, and compared them to the same regions in the brains of deceased "neurologically-normal individuals."

The researchers found significantly higher levels of ceramide and cholesterol in the middle frontal gyrus of the Alzheimer's patients, when compared to the same region in a control group of normal brains. The amounts of these lipids and the extent of oxidative damage the scientists found increased with the severity of the disease. The cerebellum of the brains affected by Alzheimer's showed no increase in the level of the lipids, when compared to the cerebellum of the normal brains. The middle frontal gyrus is one brain region where the telltale amyloid deposits and neurofibrillary tangles indicate the presence of the disease in people with Alzheimer's.

"The involvement of cholesterol and ceramide in the neurotoxic actions of beta amyloid, and their strong associations with the way the Alzheimer's progresses, suggests a novel approach for therapeutic interventions," Mattson said. "Our work suggests that dietary modifications and drugs that inhibit the accumulation of ceramide and cholesterol may prove effective in suppressing the processes that lead to the disease."


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Contact: Monica Amarelo
mamarelo@aaas.org
206-774-6330
American Association for the Advancement of Science
15-Feb-2004


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