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Researchers at the Center for BrainHealth, part of the University of Texas at Dallas, recently looked at how cells in the brains of people who are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s create and use energy. Relationships between the energy metabolism of the brain and the Alzheimer’s risk have already been reported. However, this is the first study that clearly differentiates between different energy molecules in the brain using high-performance imaging called magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) at 7 Tesla. The results of this study could be helpful in developing tests for the early detection and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
The study was published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience (August 2020) by Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D., Chief Director of the Center for BrainHealth. Namrata Das, MD, MPH, a neuroscientist on Alzheimer’s and the lead author of the study; Jeffrey Spence, Ph.D., director of biostatistics; Audette Rackley, Special Programs Director; and Jimin Ren, Ph.D., a researcher at UT-Southwestern Medical Center.
With this imaging technique, scientists can study how the human brain generates and uses energy at the cellular level. Other techniques are invasive, which is why most studies on the energy metabolism of the brain have so far been carried out on deceased patients or on model organisms such as mice.
“The biggest finding is that the peaks of the MRS scan could be separated to study the energy of the brain. It’s almost like seeing a heartbeat for the first time,” said Chapman.
The results add a methodology for studying the early pathological biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease in patients with amnesic mild cognitive impairment, a condition that sometimes leads to the development of the disease. Participants with higher brain energy metabolism in their parieto-occipital lobes had poorer memory and attention skills.
Energy consumption and production are the core of the biological mechanism of all cells, especially in the brain, due to their high energy requirements. The brain’s extraordinary energy demands can lead to the dangerous buildup of beta-amyloid and tau proteins that occurs in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
“We want to investigate how the energy metabolism of the brain differs between healthy participants, participants with amnesic mild cognitive impairment and participants with Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. The. “Later we want to understand whether energy abnormalities upstream trigger or exacerbate amyloid, tau, and glucose metabolic abnormalities in the brain.” The earlier Alzheimer’s disease is detected and treated, the better the patient’s outcomes.
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Namrata Das et al., Relationship Between Phosphate Metabolism and Cognition of Parieto-Occipital Brain Energy Phosphate Using 31P-MRS at 7-Tesla in Amnesic Mild Cognitive Impairment, Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience (2020). DOI: 10.3389 / fnagi.2020.00222
Provided by the Center for BrainHealth
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