The reason women appear to be at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than men might be due to a number of genetic, anatomical and even social influences, researchers have suggested.
Recent figures show about 65% of those with living with dementia in the UK are women, with a similar statistic seen in the US for Alzheimer’s disease, while dementia is the leading cause of death for women in England. Alzheimer’s disease is only one of the types of dementia, but the most common form.
While one explanation is that dementia risk increases with age, and women have longer life expectancies than men, new research suggests there might be more to the matter, including that protein tangles found within neurons and linked to Alzheimer’s disease might spread differently in women’s brains than men’s.
The study, presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Los Angeles by researchers from Vanderbilt University and which has not yet been peer-reviewed, used scans from a method called positron emission tomography. That allowed them to look at the way clumps of a protein called tau were spread in the brains of 123 men and 178 women without cognitive problems, as well as 101 men and 60 women with mild cognitive problems – although not yet diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Cognitively normal older people often have small amounts of tau in certain areas of their brain.
From the data the team could build maps showing which areas of the brain show similar signals relating to tau in the scans, suggesting they are somehow connected. “Based on that we kind of try to reconstruct the pattern of spread,” Dr Sepideh Shokouhi, who is presenting the research, told the Guardian. “It is kind of like reconstructing a crime scene.”
For the article from The Guardian, click here.