Scientists find Alzheimer's link in mad cow protein

A new clue has emerged concerning Alzheimer's disease that may offer more insight into how the condition develops in one's brain.

Yale University researchers claim to have found a link between the cognitive disorder and the prion protein, which can cause mad cow disease.

Normally the prion protein maintains brain health.

Scientists find Alzheimer's link in mad cow protein However, researchers said the protein may contribute to nerve damage if it comes into contact with the amyloid beta peptide, which has been considered by scientists to be the chief suspect as a cause for the debilitating disease.

According to a paper published in Nature, the amyloid beta protein appears to stick to the prion protein and block its benign effects. When this happens, learning and memory can be interfered with.

Some scientists say the finding expands the view of the disease.

"I think we're seeing a fundamental switch in the view of the disease," said Dr. Dale Bredesen of the Buck Institute. "Amyloid beta was the tip of the iceberg, but there's more."

An estimated 5.2 million people in the U.S. are currently living with Alzheimer's disease. By 2030, it's estimated the number of individuals aged 65 and older with the disease will reach 7.7 million.

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