Cerebrovascular disease in ageing and Alzheimer's disease

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Abstract

Cerebrovascular disease (CVD) and Alzheimer's disease (AD) have more in common than their association with ageing. They share risk factors and overlap neuropathologically. Most patients with AD have Aβ amyloid angiopathy and degenerative changes affecting capillaries, and many have ischaemic parenchymal abnormalities. Structural vascular disease contributes to the ischaemic abnormalities in some patients with AD. However, the stereotyped progression of hypoperfusion in this disease, affecting first the precuneus and cingulate gyrus, then the frontal and temporal cortex and lastly the occipital cortex, suggests that other factors are more important, particularly in early disease. Whilst demand for oxygen and glucose falls in late disease, functional MRI, near infrared spectroscopy to measure the saturation of haemoglobin by oxygen, and biochemical analysis of myelin proteins with differential susceptibility to reduced oxygenation have all shown that the reduction in blood flow in AD is primarily a problem of inadequate blood supply, not reduced metabolic demand. Increasing evidence points to non-structural vascular dysfunction rather than structural abnormalities of vessel walls as the main cause of cerebral hypoperfusion in AD. Several mediators are probably responsible. One that is emerging as a major contributor is the vasoconstrictor endothelin-1 (EDN1). Whilst there is clearly an additive component to the clinical and pathological effects of hypoperfusion and AD, experimental and clinical observations suggest that the disease processes also interact mechanistically at a cellular level in a manner that exacerbates both. The elucidation of some of the mechanisms responsible for hypoperfusion in AD and for the interactions between CVD and AD has led to the identification of several novel therapeutic approaches that have the potential to ameliorate ischaemic damage and slow the progression of neurodegenerative disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)645-658
Number of pages14
JournalActa Neuropathologica
Volume131
Issue number5
Early online date28 Dec 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2016

Keywords

  • Cerebrovascular disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Ageing
  • Hypoperfusion
  • Myelin proteins
  • Endothelin-1

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