Cholesterol promotes the formation of Alzheimer’s plaques

Dr. Karen Zoufal | 09/21/2021

It has long been known that genes related to cholesterol have an effect on the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers were able to elucidate this connection a little further: Cholesterol produced in the brain could play a key role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, they report in the specialist journal “PNAS”.

The US researchers found that certain brain cells – the astrocytes – promote the progression of Alzheimer’s disease by producing more cholesterol. This increases the production of beta amyloid and encourages plaque formation. In animal experiments in mice it was possible to reduce the cholesterol production of the astrocytes and thus the formation of plaques. The new findings help understand how and why the plaques form. The observation may also explain why genes related to cholesterol have an impact on Alzheimer’s risk.

“Our data shows the importance of focusing on the production of cholesterol in astrocytes and its transport to neurons in order to reduce beta-amyloid and prevent plaque formation. If we can find strategies to keep astrocytes from making too much cholesterol, we could have a real impact on the development of Alzheimer’s disease, ”said Dr. Heather A. Ferris of the University of Virginia.

What: DOI 10.1073/pnas.2102191118

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