Amyloid Plaques Can Form In The Brain “Within Hours”

Amyloid plaques, found in the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers, can form in as little as a few hours according to a recent American study published in the science journal Nature.

Researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute for Neuro-degenerative Disease analyzed the brains of mice bred to develop amyloid plaques using an advanced microscopic imaging technique known as “multiphoton laser confocal microscopy” in order to view the formation of the plaques and the subsequent damage as it occurred in the brains of the mice.

“We’ve had snapshots of individual steps in the past. This microscopic technology gives us the ability to watch the process from beginning to end, to see the variety of things that happen as inflammatory cells get activated,” said research leader Dr. Bradley Hayman.

The researchers found that while the formation of these plaques was a relatively rare event, once plaque formation is initiated, the process was a rapid one with large plaques being observed in mice just one day after a scan showing no plaque formation. Furthermore, the researchers found that neuron cell damage due to plaque formation begins to appear within days of plaque formation.

The study also helps shed light on the way Alzheimer’s disease develops in the brain. Previously it had been unknown whether protein plaques were a symptom or a cause of neuron cell damage in the brain. It now appears that the amyloid protein plaques are the primary cause of the brain cell damage rather than being a symptom of the disease.

In a healthy brain, fragments of amyloid protein known as beta-amyloid form naturally in the brain but are broken down and eliminated by brain cells. In Alzheimer’s disease however, it appears the bodies natural defense mechanisms begin to slow down and become overwhelmed by the protein fragments which start to accumulate between neurons in the brain.