Scientists have discovered the principal cause of dementia. The discovery could lead to possible treatment and diagnosis of the medical condition.
The descriptions of the discovery were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research was led by Professor Garth Cooper from the University of Manchester and other colleagues from the University of Auckland, the South Australian Research and Development Institute, AgResearch New Zealand, Harvard University, and Massachusetts General Hospital, according to Medical Xpress.
Professor Cooper said that the development of urea in the brain to toxic levels can cause brain damage and could eventually lead to dementia. Urea is a compound that contains nitrogen that is normally cleared from the blood by the kidney into the urine. It is a compound that is excreted from the body in urine.
Urea, as well as ammonia in the brain, are metabolic breakdown products of protein. The development of these compounds could trigger serious symptoms. They are developed because the kidneys could not eliminate them.
The study indicates Huntington’s disease is a form of dementia associated with brain urea levels and metabolic processes. Professor Cooper said that this study on Huntington’s disease is the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle which could lead them to conclude that high brain urea plays the main role in dementia.
Huntington’s disease is a degenerative disease that is incurable. It is caused by a single gene defect that is inherited through families. It often occurs in middle age, and its symptoms include mood swings, anger, and depression. Later on, it will develop into dementia and becomes a paralysis, according to The Guardian.
Professor Cooper said that Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s are at opposite ends of the dementia spectrum, so it holds true for these types. He believes that it is highly likely that this holds true for all major age-related dementias.
On the other hand, he further said that more studies are needed to discover the source of the elevated urea in HD. These also include the potential involvement of ammonia and a systematic metabolic defect.
Meanwhile, the researchers are affirmative on identifying what causes the brain damage, and they described it as a significant milestone. The discovery could lead to a possible drug that could inhibit dementia from progressing and pave the way to the reversal of dementia.