Alzheimer’s Disease Detected in Wild Animals for the First Time


Alzheimers Disease Detected in Wild Animals for the First TimeA few Scientists had long felt that it was just a matter of time before we witnessed this event. We’re talking about what a recent international research team found, and that was evidence of Alzheimer’s disease in dolphins. This is the very first time that any kind of age related disorder or disease has been found within a wild animal.

Previous Beliefs Thought Only Human Could Get Alzheimer’s

However, the majority of scientists believe that only humans could be afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. This has recently changed after scientists who were from Kent State University in Ohio discovered traces of this awful disease in chimpanzees. Specifically, it was discovered inside the brains of certain chimps who had died due to natural causes at research centers and zoos. A brand new report which was recently published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia is the very first to detect two primary markers of the disease—protein tangles and plaques—inside of wild animals, namely dolphins. These latest findings provide even more evidence claiming that Alzheimer’s is not just a human specific disease. And now other animals are available to help study and evaluate this awful condition.

Many animals often die shortly when there fertile years come to an end, but orca whales and dolphins are like humans and tend to survive well beyond their reproductive years. In fact, female orca whales are often afflicted with menopause. A scientist from Oxford University named Simon Lovestone began to wonder if dolphins were vulnerable to these age-related neurological diseases like Dementia and Alzheimer’s since they typically lived long lives. In order to answer this question, Lovestone and associates studied and evaluated the brains of certain dolphins that had died from natural causes in the wild. Many of these dolphins came to them as bodies that had washed up on the shores of the Spanish coast.

Discovered Two Proteins Behind Alzheimer’s

The scientist discovered plaques of proteins that are known as beta amyloid, and also the tangles of an additional protein called tau. These two proteins are found in humans who are afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. In brains that are healthy, the amyloid beta will break down and go away, but when people have Alzheimer’s, this protein will linger, and that results in the forming of plaques between the neurons. The plaques will then activate another process where tau will form tangles which destabilize the brain cells. Together, these two specific neurological disturbances create dementia.

It is important to point out that this recent study does not reveal exactly how these dolphins are being  affected by their version of this disease, or whether they even experience any memory loss or not. We really will not even know until there are behavioral tests conducted on dolphins in captivity—which is something that scientists are not advocating.

With that in mind, this discovery does point to possible causes of this disease, with modified insulin function existing as a common denominator. Insulin serves to regulate sugar levels within the blood, which sets off a complicated chemical cascade that is referred to as insulin signaling. Any change in this insulin signaling could cause diabetes within humans as well as other mammals. Also, we have learned that intense caloric restriction has an effect on insulin signaling, which will extend the lives of particular animals by relatively significant amounts. In a few animals, like mice and fruit flies, caloric restriction could extend their lives by as much as three times.


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