Sources: Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease; Medscape

Dementia is a loss of brain function that occurs with certain diseases. Alzheimer’s disease (AD), is one form of dementia that gradually gets worse over time. It affects memory, thinking, and behavior.  One of it’s hallmarks is the presence of amyloid plaques which show up on imaging of the brain.  Amyloid plaques are sticky buildup which accumulates outside nerve cells, or neurons. Amyloid is a protein that is normally found throughout the body. In AD, the protein divides improperly creating a form called beta amyloid, which is toxic to neurons in the brain.  AD seems to affect women disproportionally.

Vitamin D has been looked at with hope by researcheds for its possible beneficial effect against the amyloid plaques that are key in Alzheimer’s disease.  A new study shows just how they may work in clearing the plaques.

The Research. published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, shows that vitamin D3 may work by activating certain genes and cell signaling networks to ramp up the immune system, which then clears away a key component of amyloid plaques called amyloid-beta protein.  “This new study helped clarify the key mechanisms involved, which will help us better understand the usefulness of vitamin D3 and curcumin as possible therapies for Alzheimer’s disease,” sais study researcher Dr. Milan Fiala, of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System.

Researchers conducted the study by taking blood samples from people with and without Alzheimer’s disease, and isolating particular immune cells from the blood that are responsible for clearing away the amyloid-beta protein.  These same scientists also published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in 2009. In that earlier study, they found that vitamin D3, together with the spice curcumin, work together to get the immune system to have its effects against amyloid-beta protein in the brain. They reported that vitamin D3 mainly comes from sunshine.  There’s a nice thought.

Posted by: Gayle R. Lewis, Esquire