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Study: Enhancing Certain Blood Vessel Functions May Reduce Alzheimer's Risk: A Massachusetts General Hospital study suggests healthy vasculature helps clear out dangerous amyloid-beta fragments.

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) found that a blood vessel condition known as "vasomotion" helps clear fragments of amyloid-beta protein from the brain. Amyloid-beta is the substance that clumps in between neurons, interfering with brain cell function, often resulting in Alzheimer's disease.

Vasomotion is a series of spontaneous and very slow blood vessel pulsations. MGH researchers are encouraged that the study, which was done on mice and published in the journal Neuron, could eventually lead to therapies that target blood vessels and improve vasomotion.

"We were able to show for the first time that large dilations and contractions of vessels that happen spontaneously at an ultra-low frequency are a major driving force to clear waste products from the brain," said the study's lead author, Susanne van Veluw, PhD, an investigator in the Department of Neurology at MGH.

The goal of enhancing vasomotion would be to prevent the formation of amyloid-beta plaques in the brain. Amyloid-beta is a widely researched subject, but there is still much to learn about how it functions in the brain. Prior to clumping together in between brain cells, beta-amyloid protein fragments accumulate in the blood and tissue of the brain. If those fragments could be removed from the brain, the harmful plaques would be less likely to form and the risk of Alzheimer's could drop, Dr. van Veluw says.

"If we direct therapeutic strategies towards promoting healthy vasculature and therefore improve clearance of amyloid-beta from the brain, we may be able to prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease in the future," Dr. van Veluw says.

Such a development could be years away, but MGH researchers are nevertheless encouraged by their findings and this potentially new path toward the treatment or prevention of Alzheimer's disease.

Vasomotion, which involves a change in the tone of blood vessel walls, was first discovered in the 19th century. And yet it remains a somewhat mysterious phenomenon. The pulsations of the blood vessels during vasomotion occurs independently of blood pressure or respiration.

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Publication:Mind, Mood & Memory
Date:Jan 30, 2020
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