Researchers at the University of British Columbia studied brain tissue from mice bred to mimic Alzheimer’s, and found they had nearly double the number of capillaries – tiny blood vessels – compared to normal mice.
The team then looked at brain samples from people who had died with Alzheimer’s, and found that they also had more capillaries than samples taken from healthy people.
The researchers believe that in people with Alzheimer’s, blood vessel growth may be stimulated by a toxic protein called amyloid – one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. They suggest that as the blood vessels grow, the blood-brain barrier could be made temporarily weaker, allowing amyloid to reach the brain where it builds and destroys brain cells.
Their research is published online in the journal PLoS One.
Dr Marie Janson, Director of Development at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“A growing body of evidence has linked changes in blood vessels to Alzheimer’s disease, and this is another lead to follow up. It’s not yet clear whether increases in blood vessels are to blame for Alzheimer’s, but it will be interesting to see if drugs that tackle vessel growth could act as a treatment.
“If we can understand the causes of Alzheimer’s disease, we stand a much better chance of being able to develop an effective treatment. Research is the only answer to dementia, but funding for dementia research lags far behind other serious diseases. If we are to make the progress that is so desperately needed, we must invest in research.”
Alzheimer’s Research UK