Alzheimer’s disease currently affects About one in nine American adults is over the age of 65, and this disorder is expected to become more prevalent in the future.
While there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s yet, scientists think they may have found a way to treat one aspect of it.
In a new study, a team from the University of California, San Diego and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) managed to recreate the biological clocks of animals in a mouse model with Alzheimer’s disease, through a program to intermittent fasting.
Disruption of the circadian clock is one way in which Alzheimer’s disease interferes with biological processes in the body. People with this condition experience changes in their sleep/wake cycle, often experience increased cognitive impairment and confusion in the evening, and can have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep.
Current Alzheimer’s treatments do not target this aspect of the disease, but there may be other ways to alleviate the problem.
When the researchers put the mice on a time-bound feeding schedule, the animals showed significant improvements in memory function. while, amyloid proteins – which has long been associated with Alzheimer’s disease – was less likely to accumulate in the brains of fasting mice.
Furthermore, mice on the feeding schedule followed a more regular sleep pattern, were less active at night, and experienced less sleep disturbances compared to mice that were allowed to eat at any time.
“For many years we assumed that circadian disruptions seen in people with Alzheimer’s disease are the result of neurodegeneration, but we are now learning that it may be the other way around – circadian disruption may be one of the main drivers of Alzheimer’s pathology.” He says Neuroscientist Paula Desplates of the University of California, San Diego.
“This makes circadian disturbances a promising target for novel Alzheimer’s therapies, and our findings provide a proof-of-concept for an easy and accessible method for correcting these disturbances.”
The mice were only allowed to eat during a six-hour period each day. In humans, this equates to a 14-hour fast in each 24-hour cycle – and this appears to help reset normal circadian rhythms disrupted by Alzheimer’s disease.
Alterations down to the molecular level have also been observed, with multiple genes associated with disease and illness inflammation in the brain Differences in the way it is expressed in Alzheimer’s mice appear on the fasting schedule.
Adopting intermittent fasting is something that people can do relatively easily, relatively quickly – as treatment progresses, it becomes fairly straightforward. If the same results are found in human trials, this is another promising option that could be explored in combating this harmful form of dementia.
Disturbances of the circadian clock in Alzheimer’s disease are the leading cause of nursing home admission. He says Deplates.
“Anything we can do to help patients regain their circadian rhythm will make a huge difference in how Alzheimer’s disease is managed in the clinic and how caregivers help patients manage the disease at home.”
The research has been published in cell metabolism.