Research: One in ten 50-year-olds show sign of Alzheimers

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Ten percent of 50 year olds show changes in their brains that point to the Alzheimer's disease. The specific protein accumulations appear 20 to 30 years before symptoms arrive.

This is according to a large-scale international study into so-called amloyid plaques, led by scientists from the VU University Medical Center Alzheimer's Center and the Maastricht UMC. The researchers analyzed data from more than 10 thousand people from 56 international research centers. One study focused on the Alzheimer's protein in patients that don't have any symptoms of dementia. The other focused on the presence of this protein in people suffering from various forms of dementia.

The results of the study shows that one in ten 50 year olds without any dementia symptoms already show a measurable plaque accumulation. This percentage increases to 44 percent among 90 year olds. "But you can not say that everyone with these protein accumulations will actually get Alzheimer's", says Pieter Jelle Visser, clinical epidemiologist in Amsterdam and Maastricht. "It is a risk factor, but not everyone with the protein accumulations will eventually become demented."

Remarkably, these plaques are even more common in people with a higher education. "One possible explanation as that the brains of highly educated people have a greater reserve, and can thus endure more damage of the protein accumulations before actually getting complaints", according to Willemijn Jansen, one of the researchers from Maastricht UMC.

The protein was found to accumulate 20 to 30 years before the development of Alzheimer type dementia. The facts that the plaques are already present in people without dementia, could offer opportunities for early treatment in the future. "Medicines for this first have to be developed. Research on this has already started, but it will take 5 to 10 years before the results are known." Visser said.

Alzheimer's disease is a brain disorder that affects millions of people worldwide This disease is the leading cause of dementia. The disease is characterized by, among other things, memory problems, orientation and language difficulties and ultimately behavioral changes.

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