Reduced number of new brain nerve cells linked to Alzheimer’s

25 March 2019

Nature Medicine: Adult hippocampal neurogenesis is abundant in neurologically healthy subjects and drops sharply in patients with Alzheimer’s disease

An international team of researchers have pinpointed early brain changes that suggest if someone will develop Alzheimer’s disease. The findings are published today (Monday 25 March) in the journal, Nature Medicine.

Dr Rosa Sancho, Head of Research from Alzheimer’s Research UK said:

“There has been conflicting evidence about the extent to which adults can grow new nerve cells in the brain. While we start losing nerve cells in early adulthood, this research shows that we can continue to produce new ones even into our 90s.”

“Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of ageing, but a disease that causes physical damage to the brain. Alzheimer’s radically accelerates the rate at which we lose nerve cells and this research provides convincing evidence that it also limits the creation of new nerve cells.

“The brain is one of the most complex structures in the known universe. It’s remarkable how the brain can cope with the damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease for decades before people show symptoms of dementia, like memory loss. Larger studies will need to confirm these findings and explore whether they could pave the way for an early test to flag those most at risk of the disease.

“While preventing the loss of nerve cells is the ultimate aim of most drugs being explored to treat Alzheimer’s, this study suggests that supporting the growth of new nerve cells could represent an alternative or complementary approach. With no new medicines for Alzheimer’s for over 15 years, it’s important researchers explore innovative approaches to develop new treatments.”