Some super-agers are immune to the symptoms of Alzheimer’s despite having all the hallmarks of the disease, research shows.
Post-mortems revealed that several individuals over 90 who had shown no signs of cognitive decline had the brain plaques which cause the disease.
The research raises hopes that scientists could now identify a protective factor which would help those with Alzheimer’s stave off its symptoms.
Northwestern University’s Professor Changiz Geula, the lead investigator, told the Telegraph: “It tells us there are some factors that are protecting their brains and memories against the Alzheimer’s pathology of plaques and tangles. Now we have to find out what those are.
“We will look at genetic, dietary and environmental influences that could confer protection for neurons against Alzheimer’s pathology.”
Scientists found that the nerve cells in the hippocampus, the part of the brain which forms memories, were intact in people immune to symptoms.
Meanwhile, significant cell death was found in the brains of those who had suffered from dementia before their deaths.
Researchers examined the brains of three people who had Alzheimer’s pathology but no symptoms and five who did.
The next stage of the research is a large scale study to determine factors that protect against the disease.
The findings were presented at the Society for Neuroscience 2016 annual conference in San Diego.
The Office for National Statistics announced today that Alzheimer’s is now the leading cause of death in England and Wales.