American scientists are studying the activity of a protein linked with Alzheimer's disease. According to researchers, the more rapid spread of this protein in the brains of women could explain why diagnoses of Alzheimer's occur more frequently in women than men.
Alzheimer's disease, which destroys nerve cells in the brain, affects more women than men. In the USA, almost two-thirds of Alzheimer's patients are women. The reasons for this difference are unclear.
American scientists have presented a new study which could eventually lead to an understanding of the phenomenon. Presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference, which is taking place July 14-18 in Los Angeles, the research was led by scientists from the Center for Cognitive Science at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, United States.
The researchers centered their study on tau proteins, which spread from neuron to neuron and are linked to the destruction of cerebral tissues in Alzheimer's patients. By studying images from brain scans, they retraced the pathways of tau proteins in the brains of 123 men and 178 women in good health and 101 men and 60 women suffering from mild cognitive impairment.
Greater levels of tau protein accumulation in women
"It's kind of like reconstructing a crime scene after a crime. You weren't there when it happened, but you can determine where an intruder entered a house and what room they entered next. The graph analysis does something similar to show how tau spreads from one region to another," said Sepi Shokouhi, PhD, assistant professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and lead investigator for the study.
The study indicates that women may have more connections in the areas of the brain where tau proteins spread, which might accelerate their accumulation and increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's. The researchers emphasized that further study is necessary to establish a theory of accelerated tau protein spread in the female brain.
"Sex-specific differences in the brain's pathological, neuroanatomical, and functional organization may map into differences at a neurobehavioral and cognitive level, thus explaining differences in the prevalence of neurodegenerative disorders and helping us develop appropriate treatments," said Dr. Shokouhi.