Excessive consumption of alcohol is not only bad for you because it can damage your liver, but scientists believe that it might also make you more susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease.
Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research in New York have embarked on a study to identify the link between dementia and binge drinking alcohol. The researchers believe that alcohol changes a protein usually found in the brain into a rogue component that is abundantly observed in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The protein is currently known as tau, and it is commonly found in neurons responsible for ensuring that axonal microtubules are stable and regulated.
The race to identify the alcohol-induced conditions that pave the way for Alzheimer’s
Researchers previously observed that tau is also found in uncommon forms. It is one of the components found in the plaque buildup, usually associated with different dementia types. Scientists are currently trying to understand how drinking too much chemically changes the tau protein and how it affects the brain.
“Studies have shown that frequent and heavy alcohol drinking is linked to earlier onset and increased severity of Alzheimer’s disease,” stated Dr. Max Brenner, who is one of the researchers involved in the study.
Dr. Brenner also noted that there have been previous reports where excessive alcohol consumption was linked to cortical atrophy in individuals at high risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The cortical atrophy is similar to that observed in Alzheimer’s patients. He also added that when the tau protein is exposed to chronic alcohol consumption, it experiences phosphorylation within the hippocampus. Studies involving mice predisposed to Alzheimer’s also showed that binge drinking alcohol can cause memory-impairment.
The researchers hope that ongoing studies will help them better understand how specific proteins are involved in tau proliferation. Some of the proteins they have been focusing on include cold-inducible RNA-binding protein (CIRP) and extracellular cold-inducible RNA-binding protein (eCIRP). The latter is usually released when brain cells detect high alcohol exposure levels. The same protein molecule is released when the brain goes through harmful radiation exposure, low temperatures, and low oxygen.
The scientists believe that identifying the link may help develop treatments that will prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s.