Advance in Research on Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB)

A scientific advance has been made in researching the role of synapses in dementia, by a study co-led by the University of Edinburgh along with Hospital de Sant Pau and Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB). The study was funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK and the Spanish charity Fundaciό Cellex Barcelona. Their findings were at first published in the journal, Brain, in a paper written by Marti Colom-Cadena of UAB.

The findings will attribute to improving public health at large, as DLB is the third most common form of dementia, after Alzheimer’s and those of the vascular types. Symptoms of DLB include memory loss and movement issues. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), there are 100,000 DLB patients in the UK.

Although Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB) had already been known to cause damages to the brain, neither a cure for the disease nor extensive research had previously been successfully achieved.

With the naked eye, synapses are not visible, as they are 5,000 times thinner than a sheet of paper. Elaborate technology was therefore integral in carrying out research. Array tomography is one example, which is a high resolution imaging method used to study the brain tissues of five DLB patients and five healthy controls.   

Synapses are connection points between neurons which make communication between cells easier, and are crucial for memory information. An observation was then made that synapses could be linked with DLB – the five people who had suffered and died from DLB  had damaged synapses in their proteins. This damage to the ‘alpha-synuclein’ protein contributes to dementia symptoms, the research found.

 

Image: Duckworth / Photographer

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