Scientists Discovered What Causes Dementia

An international team of researchers claims to have found a major cause of dementia - an incurable brain disease.


Scientists discovered a major cause of dementia which can help in the diagnosis and treatment of the illness. The researchers point to toxic levels of urea in the brain as being responsible for the brain damage that leads to dementia, an incurable neurodegenerative disease that causes an impairment of memory and thinking abilities.   

Urea is a byproduct of protein metabolism, produced by the liver to remove ammonia from the body. If you’re wondering - yes, urea is what’s excreted from the body in urine after being filtered by the kidneys.

The paper published by collaborating scientists from the UK, Australia, New Zealand the U.S. shows that Huntington’s Disease, one of seven major kinds of dementia that’s related to aging, has a direct relationship to urea levels in the brain as well as metabolic processes. A 2016 study by the same group also linked urea to Alzheimer’s. This proves, according to Professor Garth Cooper, who led the team from the University of Manchester in the U.K, that their discovery relates to different type of dementias. 

The observation that high urea levels set in before the onset of dementia can help doctors to one day diagnose and treat the disease.

“This study on Huntington’s Disease is the final piece of the jigsaw which leads us to conclude that high brain urea plays a pivotal role in dementia, said Professor Cooper. “Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s are at opposite ends of the dementia spectrum – so if this holds true for these types, then I believe it is highly likely it will hold true for all the major age-related dementias.” 

He added that more research is needed to understand how the urea levels get elevated.

The current study was conducted on human brains, donated by families for medical purposes as well as the brains of genetically modified sheep.

The international team included scientists from the University of Manchester, the University of Auckland, AgResearch New Zealand, the South Australian Research and Development Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University.

You can read their study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Unraveling the mystery behind dogs' floppy ears

Dogs' floppy ears may be part of why they and other domesticated animals love humans so much.

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash
Surprising Science
  • Nearly all domestic animals share several key traits in addition to friendliness to humans, traits such as floppy ears, a spotted coat, a shorter snout, and so on.
  • Researchers have been puzzled as to why these traits keep showing up in disparate species, even when they aren't being bred for those qualities. This is known as "domestication syndrome."
  • Now, researchers are pointing to a group of a cells called neural crest cells as the key to understanding domestication syndrome.
Keep reading Show less

Russian reporters discover 101 'tortured' whales jammed in offshore pens

Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.

(VL.ru)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Russian news network discovers 101 black-market whales.
  • Orcas and belugas are seen crammed into tiny pens.
  • Marine parks continue to create a high-price demand for illegal captures.
Keep reading Show less

A dark matter hurricane is crashing into Earth

Giving our solar system a "slap in the face."

Surprising Science
  • A stream of galactic debris is hurtling at us, pulling dark matter along with it
  • It's traveling so quickly it's been described as a hurricane of dark matter
  • Scientists are excited to set their particle detectors at the onslffaught
Keep reading Show less