How does obesity contribute to one’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s?
Marcelo A. Mori, Ph.D.
University of Campinas
Obesity in mid-life is associated with an increased risk for later-life cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s. How exactly obesity and one’s lifetime risk of developing Alzheimer’s are linked remains unclear. Studies have shown that fat stores release different factors into the blood, which could then mediate different effects on the brain. Additionally, the blood-brain barrier (BBB), a specialized structure that helps maintain a healthy brain environment by tightly regulating what goes into and out of the brain from the circulating blood, may become damaged in Alzheimer’s.
Dr. Marcello Mori and colleagues believe that microRNAs (miRNAs), small molecules that help determine what genes (DNA) are turned “off” or “on”, may be secreted by fat cells and contribute to the brain changes seen in Alzheimer’s.
Dr. Mori and the team will identify which miRNAs are transported from fat stores to the brain using genetically engineered Alzheimer’s-like mice. They will also examine whether the same fat-derived miRNAs are present in brain tissue from individuals who had Alzheimer’s. Next, the researchers will assess whether reducing the levels of the fat-derived miRNAs prevents cognitive decline and hallmark brain changes in the same genetically engineered Alzheimer’s-like mice.
Results from this study may shed new light on the mechanisms linking obesity to Alzheimer’s risk. The findings could also lead to novel therapies, including lifestyle-related interventions, for preventing or treating Alzheimer’s.
Back to Top