Toronto: Abnormal build-up of fat in the brain may cause and accelerate the progression of Alzheimer's disease, new research has found.
Canadian researchers have discovered accumulations of fat droplets in the brain of patients who died from the disease and have also identified the nature of the fat.
The discovery opens up a new avenue in the search for a medication to cure or slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease.
"We found fatty acid deposits in the brain of patients who died from the disease and in mice that were genetically modified to develop Alzheimer's disease,” said Karl Fernandes, professor at University of Montreal in Canada.
"Our experiments suggest that these abnormal fat deposits could be a trigger for the disease," Fernandes pointed out.
Over 47.5 million people worldwide have Alzheimer's disease or some other type of dementia, according to the World Health Organization.
Despite decades of research, the only medications currently available treat the symptoms alone.
In experiments with mice predisposed to develop the disease, the researchers found fat droplets near the stem cells, on the inner surface of the brain.
When the researchers examined the brains of nine patients who died from Alzheimer's disease, they found significantly more fat droplets compared with five healthy brains.
Using an advanced mass spectrometry technique, the researchers identified these fat deposits as triglycerides enriched with specific fatty acids, which can also be found in animal fats and vegetable oils.
"We discovered that these fatty acids are produced by the brain, that they build up slowly with normal ageing, but that the process is accelerated significantly in the presence of genes that predispose to Alzheimer's disease," Karl Fernandes explained.
The study was published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.