Nav: Home

UF Health researchers find some evidence of link between stress, Alzheimer's disease

September 16, 2015

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- University of Florida Health researchers have uncovered more evidence of a link between the brain's stress response and a protein related to Alzheimer's disease.

The research, conducted on a mouse model and in human cells, found that a stress-coping hormone released by the brain boosts the production of protein fragments. Those protein pieces, known as amyloid beta, clump together and trigger the brain degeneration that leads to Alzheimer's disease.

The findings were published recently in The EMBO Journal by a group that includes Todd Golde, M.D., Ph.D., director of the UF Center for Translational Research in Neurodegenerative Disease and a professor in the UF College of Medicine's department of neuroscience.

The research contributes to further understanding the potential relationship between stress and Alzheimer's disease, a disorder believed to stem from a mix of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors. The findings strengthen the idea of a link between stress and Alzheimer's disease, Golde said.

"It adds detailed insight into the stress mechanisms that might promote at least one of the Alzheimer's pathologies," Golde said.

Figuring out the non-genetic factors that heighten the risk of Alzheimer's disease is especially challenging, and the recent study is one step in a long process of looking at the effects of stress and other environmental factors, according to Golde. It could also point the way to a novel treatment approach in the future, he said.

Here is what researchers found: Stress causes the release of a hormone called corticotrophin releasing factor, or CRF, in the brain. That, in turn, increases production of amyloid beta. As amyloid beta collects in the brain, it initiates a complex degenerative cascade that leads to Alzheimer's disease.

During laboratory testing, mouse models that were exposed to acute stress had more of the Alzheimer's-related protein in their brains than those in a control group, researchers found. The stressed mice also had more of a specific form of amyloid beta, one that has a particularly pernicious role in the development of Alzheimer's disease.

To better understand how CRF increases the amount of Alzheimer's-related proteins, researchers then treated human neurons with CRF. That caused a significant increase in the amyloid proteins involved in Alzheimer's disease.

Those and other complex experiments reveal more about the mechanics of a likely relationship between stress and Alzheimer's disease. The stress hormone, CRF, causes an enzyme known as gamma secretase to increase its activity. That, in turn, causes more of the Alzheimer's-related protein to be produced, Golde said.

Modifying environmental factors such as stress is yet another approach to warding off Alzheimer's disease, and one that is easier than modifying the genes that cause the disorder, Golde said. One possible solution -- blocking the CRF receptor that initiates the stress-induced process that generates Alzheimer's-related proteins -- didn't work. Researchers are now looking at an antibody that could be used to block the stress hormone directly, Golde said.

"These softer, non-genetic factors that may confer risk of Alzheimer's disease are much harder to address," Golde said. "But we need more novel approaches in the pipeline than we have now."

The idea of looking more closely at the mechanism linking stress and Alzheimer's disease came from Seong-Hun Kim, M.D., Ph.D., a former assistant professor in the College of Medicine's department of pharmacology and therapeutics and now a psychiatrist in Seattle. Much of the project's experiments were done by Hyo-Jin Park, Ph.D., who was a postdoctoral associate during the project and is now an assistant scientist in the College of Medicine's department of aging and geriatric research. Kevin Felsenstein, Ph.D., an associate professor of neuroscience in UF's College of Medicine, also made major contributions to the work.
-end-
The research was supported by multiple

University of Florida

Related Stress Articles:

How do our cells respond to stress?
Molecular biologists reverse-engineer a complex cellular structure that is associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS
How stress remodels the brain
Stress restructures the brain by halting the production of crucial ion channel proteins, according to research in mice recently published in JNeurosci.
Why stress doesn't always cause depression
Rats susceptible to anhedonia, a core symptom of depression, possess more serotonin neurons after being exposed to chronic stress, but the effect can be reversed through amygdala activation, according to new research in JNeurosci.
How plants handle stress
Plants get stressed too. Drought or too much salt disrupt their physiology.
Stress in the powerhouse of the cell
University of Freiburg researchers discover a new principle -- how cells protect themselves from mitochondrial defects.
Measuring stress around cells
Tissues and organs in the human body are shaped through forces generated by cells, that push and pull, to ''sculpt'' biological structures.
Cellular stress at the movies
For the first time, biological imaging experts have used a custom fluorescence microscope and a novel antibody tagging tool to watch living cells undergoing stress.
Maternal stress at conception linked to children's stress response at age 11
A new study published in the Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease finds that mothers' stress levels at the moment they conceive their children are linked to the way children respond to life challenges at age 11.
A new way to see stress -- using supercomputers
Supercomputer simulations show that at the atomic level, material stress doesn't behave symmetrically.
Beware of evening stress
Stressful events in the evening release less of the body's stress hormones than those that happen in the morning, suggesting possible vulnerability to stress in the evening.
More Stress News and Stress Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.