Stress: Its potential to cause physical harm compels us to avoid it as much as possible, but new research shows that some level of stress can actually help stave off and possibly even reverse Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease, which affects 6.5 million Americans aged 65 and over, is characterized by an unhealthy buildup of misfolded proteins like beta-amyloid and tau in the brain. Folding, a process that makes proteins biologically functional, is usually monitored by healthy brain cells that are also responsible for destroying misfolded proteins. Errors in this neurological process can lead to an unhealthy buildup of misfolded proteins which, in turn, can cause neurodegenerative conditions such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
A recent article in the publication Nature detailed how researchers from the UK Institute for Dementia Research at the University of Cambridge discovered a way to add stress through heat shock therapy to other affected parts of the brain cells so that they can combat the misfolding of harmful proteins and any resulting buildup.
“This new research is extremely encouraging and important as we continue to seek new, potentially paradigm-shifting insights that guide the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Amy Sanders, MD, MS, FAAN, director of the Memory care center with the Ayer Neuroscience Institute of Hartford HealthCare.
The research, she said, can help define new avenues for early treatment of the disease and perhaps even bring hope, in the form of disease reversal, to those already diagnosed. with Alzheimer’s disease and the memory loss it causes. Indeed, the British researchers noted that the introduction of appropriate pharmacological methods of cell stress has the potential to eliminate protein aggregates in the brain within hours.
The research team also noted that their findings support previous studies showing that people in Scandinavia, where heat storage saunas are regularly used, have a lower risk of developing dementia.
“While much more research needs to be done in this area, the potential it holds for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease is exciting,” Dr. Sanders said.