The brain’s stress response may be tied to a protein related to Alzheimer’s disease, researchers from the University of Florida have reported. Findings from the study are published in EMBO Journal

Todd Golde, MD, PhD, professor in the department of neuroscience, and colleagues conducted laboratory tests in mouse models exposed to acute stress. There was a greater presence of the Alzheimer’s-related protein in their brains compared to the control group. The stressed mice were found to have more of a specific form of amyloid beta, which is known to play a negative role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Researchers then treated human neurons with CRF to better understand the relationship and found a significant increase in the amyloid proteins related to Alzheimer’s disease. 

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Gold explained that corticotropin releasing factors (CRF) are released in the brain in response to stress, which increases amyloid beta production. The buildup of amyloid beta initiates a degenerative cascade that leads to Alzheimer’s disease. CRF release causes an enzyme called gamma secretase to increase its activity. This also contributes to increased production of amyloid beta. Blocking the CRF receptor that initiates the stress-induced cascade was not successful, study authors stated. 

Changing environmental factors such as stress is another strategy to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, the team added. They are currently investigating an antibody that could be used to block the stress hormone directly. 

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