Poor sleep may increase Alzheimer's risk, study finds

Sharp focus on Alzheimer's may help target drugs

Poor Sleep Tied to Increased Alzheimer's Risk

"This new work will help to develop better compounds for diagnosing and treating Alzheimer's and other diseases which involve defective tau".

"Our study looked not only for amyloid but for other biological markers in the spinal fluid as well".

Researchers studied 101 cognitively normal people, average age 63, who completed well-validated sleep questionnaires. While tau filaments are formed within the nerve cells of the brain, beta amyloid proteins are formed outside the nerve cells in the form of filaments.

She added that doctors should encourage adults to improve the quality of their sleep to reduce the number of Alzheimer's sufferers in the future.

Researchers at the Medical Research Council's Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) say on Wednesday that for the first time they have succeeded in revealing the atomic structures of one of the abnormal filaments which lead to Alzheimer's disease.

Participants who reported the worse sleep quality or suffered from daytime drowsiness had more biological markers for Alzheimer's than those without sleep problems.

Fellow senior author Dr Michel Goedert, who also worked on the original research 30 years ago, said: "We have known for nearly three decades that the abnormal assembly of tau protein into filaments is a defining characteristic of Alzheimer's disease".

"Drugs that could clear away clumps of protein in the brain are a key goal for researchers, but to directly affect these proteins, molecules that make up a drug need to latch on and bind to their surface", explains the head of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, Rosa Sancho. Ju also studies the association between sleep and dementia, and she co-wrote an accompanying editorial for the new study.

One of the limitations of the study was that the sleep problems were self-reported. She was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. "It may be possible that early intervention for people at risk of Alzheimer's disease may prevent or delay the onset of the disease", Dr. Endlin said in a statement.

Dr. Rudolph Tanzi, who directs the genetics and aging research unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, agreed. This could help speed up the process to find new drugs that target tau in the brain.

This build-up is known to cause toxic clumps in the brain, which are believed to be the signature hallmark of the disease.

They were questioned about their sleep quality and provided spinal fluid samples that were tested for biological markers of Alzheimer's disease. Bendlin stresses that much remains to be discovered about the link between sleep and dementia.

"Animal studies suggest sleep affects development of brain changes, but brain changes in turn also affect sleep", Bendlin said.

"In experimental studies, there does seems to be evidence of both chicken and egg", said neuroscientist Jeffrey Iliff of Oregon Health and Sciences University.

"No, the public can't remove amyloid plaque", Iliff said.

Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer's Association, agreed: "This new study suggests there may be an opportunity to improve cognition and possibly reduce dementia risk through early diagnosis and effective treatment of sleep disorders". "Once they are identified, they would still have to be developed, tested in mice, and then in humans".

Latest News