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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Nicotine Tied to Alzheimer's Risk

Alzheimer's plagues millions of Americans as they reach old age; it is the most common form of dementia that develops in the human brain. Science has yet to make a medical breakthrough in curing or preventing the disease from happening. Studies done in the past suggested that low amount of nicotine may help prevent the proteins associated with Alzheimer's from forming in the brain. However, a new lab experiment in which rats with brain protein plaques developed further symptoms of Alzheimer's when given nicotine.

"Yan-Jiang Wang's team at the Third Military Medical University in Chongqing, China, injected amyloid plaques into the brains of healthy rats and gave some the equivalent of a smoker's daily dose of nicotine for two weeks, while others received nothing", reported the New Scientist. The rats showed early signs of tau tangles and had difficulty navigating a maze; the rats that were given nicotine did much worse navigating the maze than those who didn't receive a dose. It may be the case the nicotine will speed up the development of dementia in the brain.

According to the latest (2010) projections released by the national Alzheimer's Association:

  • Alzheimer's is the most frequent cause of dementia, accounting for 70 percent of all cases of dementia in Americans aged 71 and older.
  • By 2030, all baby boomers will be at least 65 years old. That year, the number of people aged 65 and older with Alzheimer's is expected to reach 7.7 million, more than a 50 percent increase from the 5.1 million age 65 order older currently (2009) affected.
  • By 2050, that number is expected to reach between 11 and 16 million unless medical breakthroughs identify ways to prevent or more effectively treat the disease. Barring such developments, by 2050 more than 60 percent of people with Alzheimer’s disease will be aged 85 or older.

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