With a profound impact on memory, thinking and behaviour, Alzheimer’s disease can significantly affect people’s quality of life. Although a cure hasn’t been discovered, researchers have been trying to find ways to reduce the symptoms or prevent it. A new study has found that exercise helps produce a hormone that could prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
The study, led by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), found that a muscle-driven hormone, Irisin, that increases in the body after exercise could be useful in reducing amyloid-beta deposits in the brain, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, according to Medical News Today. Amyloid is an abnormal protein which can eventually damage organs.
The findings showed that exercise increases circulating levels of irisin, which regulates glucose and lipid metabolism in fat tissue and increases energy expenditure, according to Neuroscience News. For the study, the researchers used their 3D cell culture model of Alzheimer’s disease.
“First, we found that irisin treatment led to a remarkable reduction of amyloid beta pathology,” said Se Hoon Choi, study author, in a press statement. “Second, we showed this effect of irisin was attributable to increased neprilysin activity owing to increased levels of neprilysin secreted from cells in the brain called astrocytes.” Neprilysin is an amyloid beta–degrading enzyme.
According to the researchers, the findings indicate that irisin is a major mediator of exercise-induced increases in neprilysin levels which reduced the amyloid beta burden in the study. This could be a new pathway for therapies that aim to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s disease.
While the research is still early stages, it opens the possibility of exploring another way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. “Prior studies in adult humans have demonstrated increased levels of irisin as the result of exercise, particularly resistance training, which may mediate some of the benefits of exercise on brain health,” Ryan Glatt, a senior brain health coach told Medical News Today
Notably, this is not the first study to link exercise with Alzeihmer’s prevention. In July, a new study showed that lean muscle mass contributed to preventing the disease onset. Affected brain cells in Alzheimer's disease show severe mitochondria dysfunction, the researchers explained. Hence, building lean muscle mass is important for healthy mitochondria functioning and in turn, keeping Alzheimer’s disease at bay.