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Study explains why Alzheimer’s disease is more often diagnosed in women

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Alzheimer's: researchers discover why women are more at risk of suffering from the disease
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Alzheimer’s: researchers discover why women are more at risk of suffering from the disease

Although it is known that women are more at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, the causes that lead to this phenomenon were previously unknown to science. But a study published in the scientific journal Nature this week found an answer to the question.

Researchers from Emory University School of Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine – both in the United States – and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have found that increased follicle hormone -stimulant (FSH) acts directly on neurons, stimulating an area linked to the development of neurodegenerative diseases.

According to the American Alzheimer’s Association, approximately two-thirds of Alzheimer’s cases in the United States are in the female population, particularly after menopause.

To find out what drives this dominance, the researchers drew on findings from previous studies that link the formation of plaques of two proteins in the brain, beta-amyloid and tau, to stimulation of a neural pathway called C /EBPβ/AEP. , which, in turn, leads to the emergence of neurodegenerative diseases.

“Based on this theory, our team researched the female hormones that are drastically changed during menopause and tested the one that selectively activates the pathway,” explained a professor from the Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology (SIAT) of Chinese Academy of Sciences in a statement. Keqiang Ye, one of the study’s authors.

In a series of experiments involving mice, those responsible for the discovery observed that the elevation of FSH, a hormone that acts in the menstrual cycle and in the maturation of egg cells in women, accelerated the formation of beta-plaques. amyloid and tau in the brain. . Although it is also produced by the male body, FSH is found in greater quantities in the female population, and its values ​​increase during menopause.

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“We are enthusiastic and cautiously optimistic that the FSH molecule could play an important role in Alzheimer’s disease. Based on this discovery, we have developed and hope to soon test a humanized monoclonal antibody that blocks FSH and could have enormous implications for public health.” , Professor of Medicine and Pharmacological Sciences at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and study author Mone Zaidi said in a statement.

Experience lessens the signs of disease

The study had two fronts, one with male mice and the other with female mice. In the male population, doses of FSH were injected, which resulted in an increase in signs related to the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease.

In female mice, the researchers removed the animals’ ovaries and treated them with anti-FSH antibodies to block production of the hormone. Additionally, they removed the FSH receptor from neurons to prevent it from binding to brain cells. In all of these methods, Alzheimer’s pathology and cognitive dysfunction were alleviated.

This is not the first study to link the action of a hormone to the development of the disease. In a study published in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia, involving data from almost 160,000 people, researchers from the University of Western Australia identified that low testosterone levels in older men are linked to increased Alzheimer’s case. The cause of this link, however, has not yet been discovered.

Today in Brazil, the Brazilian Alzheimer Association (ABRAz) estimates that there are 1.5 million people living with the disease. An epidemiological study conducted by researchers from the Federal University of Pelotas (UFPel), the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) and the University of Queensland, Australia, published in the Brazilian Journal of Epidemiology in 2021, showed that, by 2050, Alzheimer’s cases can quadruple in the Brazilian population if health measures are not adopted.

In addition, last year the World Health Organization (WHO) issued an alert in which it said the world was failing to tackle dementia – of which Alzheimer’s disease is one of the main causes – and pointed out that the diagnosis could affect 139 million people. in 2050.

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