Could stress open the door for Alzheimer's disease?

A team of researchers led by Kelvin J.A.Davies, a professor at USC, suggests that it might.

In a study published in Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, rats were exposed to stressful situations. Over time, researchers found that the rat's RCAN1 gene was "overexpressed." RCAN1, under normal circumstances, enables animals to handle stress. Too much stress however, can overtax this coping mechanism, causing it to overproduce chemicals that encourage the formation protein clumps and snarls that can kill neurons and impede signals sent throughout the brain.

When the brain's signals are interrupted, the normal functioning of the mind and body is also disturbed, which could lead to Alzheimer's disease.

But the stress has to be long-standing, Prof. Davies told AgingCare.com. "We think that chronic stress over many years is probably what counts," he said. "Alzheimer's disease symptoms are relatively rare in people under 60 years of age, so a chronic stress model certainly fits with clinical observations."

According to ScienceDaily.com, the study is the first to present stress as a possible link between two different hypotheses of the origin of the protein plaques that are a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.

Davies said that his team is looking into the possibility of a collaborative clinical study to further examine the link between stress and Alzheimer's and hopes other scientists will test his findings.

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