It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
People who experience chronic sleep disturbance—either through their work, insomnia or other reasons—could face an earlier onset of dementia and Alzheimer's, according to a new pre-clinical study by researchers at Temple University.
"The big biological question that we tried to address in this study is whether sleep disturbance is a risk factor to develop Alzheimer's or is it something that manifests with the disease," said Domenico Praticò, professor of pharmacology and microbiology/immunology in Temple's School of Medicine, who led the study .
"At the end of the eight weeks, we didn't initially observe anything that was obviously different between the two groups," said Praticὸ, who is also a member of Temple's Center for Translational Medicine. "However, when we tested the mice for memory, the group which had the reduced sleep demonstrated significant impairment in their working and retention memory, as well as their learning ability." The researchers then examined the mice's brains to look at the different aspects of the Alzheimer's pathology—mainly the amyloid plaques and tau protein tangles.
"Surprisingly, we didn't see any difference between the two groups in the amyloid plaques," noted Praticὸ. "However, we did observe that the sleep disturbance group had a significant increase in the amount of tau protein that became phosphorylated and formed the tangles inside the brain's neuronal cells."
Tau protein acts as an important component for neuronal cell health, but elevated levels of phosphorylated tau can disrupt the cells' synaptic connection or ability to transport a nutrient/chemical or transmit an electrical signal from one cell to another, said Praticò.
Scientists are not absolutely sure what causes cell death and tissue loss in the Alzheimer's brain, but plaques and tangles are prime suspects.