The researchers studied levels of amyloid beta — a protein that accumulates in the brain of people with Alzheimer’s — in mice genetically engineered to have a version of Alzheimer’s disease. Amyloid levels rose in the brain when the mice were awake, and fell when they slept. When the researchers prevented the mice from sleeping, it made matters worse [Reuters]. Sleep deprivation accelerated the formation of plaques made of amyloid beta, they found.
The study, published in Science, may lead to other studies that examine whether people with chronic sleep problems are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Says lead researcher Jae-Eun Kang: “The hope would be to show that treating sleep problems in humans is important not just for the immediate effect of having a normal life, but also for the long-term effect of having a healthier brain” [Bloomberg].
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