The research here is an interesting view on the relevance of vascular aging in cognitive decline and later dementia. The researchers find similar changes in blood vessels in both old mice and mice engineered to undergo the amyloid and tau aggregation characteristic of human Alzheimer’s disease. In humans, a sizable proportion of people suffering Alzheimer’s disease also have vascular dementia – one of the many challenges facing any group trying to prove success in a therapy intended to narrowly address aspects of Alzheimer’s biochemistry. That success, if it takes place at all, could well be masked in many patients by the loss of function that results from vascular aging.
With age, blood vessels stiffen and are weakened by corrosive fatty deposits. Blood pressure rises, causing an increase in the breakage of small blood vessels and consequent damage to surrounding tissue. The heart weakens. Capillary growth into tissues declines for reasons that are still comparatively poorly understood. Further, the amyloid associated with Alzheimer’s can also emerge in blood vessels and cause dysfunctional behavior there. The brain is an energy-hungry organ, and all of these problems combine to reduce the supply of needed oxygen and nutrients. Dementia is the end result.
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