Researchers made the discovery while they were reviewing data that showed dementia and Alzheimer’s occur among transplant patients at much lower rates than in general population.
For the study, researchers have analyzed the medical data record from 2,644 American patients who have undergone organ transplant surgery. They found that from the high numbers of these patients, the low signs of dementia were detected among 8 patients only. According to researches, two of the patients who showed the signs of dementia were younger than the age of 65, five of them fell between the age group of 65-74 years and one of them fell between the age group of 75-84.
Calcineurin, an enzyme that regulates communication between brain cells and memory formation, plays an important role in the formation of toxic protein aggregates that target and disrupt the brain cells responsible for memory among Alzheimer’s patients.
Luca Cicalese, a professor in the department of surgery from University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) said, “These data clearly show that the prevalence of dementia and Alzheimer’s in our transplant patient group is significantly lower, in fact almost absent, when compared to national data from the general population.”
Calcineurin inhibitor based medication such as Tacrolimus or cyclosporine, are taken by transplant recipients to suppress the immune system and prevent rejection of the new organs.
Researchers must still find a way to block calcineurin, benefitting Alzheimer’s patients without affecting the immune system.
Giulio Taglialatela, Professor and Vice Chair for Research in the department of neurology and director of UTMB’s Mitchell Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases said, “We are currently working on devising treatment strategies to obtain the same beneficial effects in AD humans using low doses of calcineurin inhibitors that result in minimal or no immunosuppression, thus limiting possible undesired side effects.”
The findings of the study are published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.