A hormone released by muscles during exercise has been associated with slowing progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Canadian neuroscientist Fernanda De Felice of Queen’s University and her American and Brazilian colleagues believe that irisin hormone could eventually be used to develop a drug for Alzheimer’s and other related dementias. “In recent years, researchers around the world have shown that exercise is an effective tool for preventing various forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dr. De Felice. “This reality has led to an intensive search for molecules responsible for the protective action of exercise on the brain,” she added.
According to the researchers, irisin has a protective effect on the contact areas of neurons, the synapses, which allow these nerve cells of the brain to communicate with each other. They participate, among other things, in the formation of memory. However, this work has shown that people with Alzheimer’s have lower levels of this hormone in two areas of the brain (the hippocampus and cerebrospinal fluid) compared to those who do not.
In tests conducted on mice, researchers have even been able to cause learning and memory deficits by eliminating irisin. They have also managed to reverse these effects by restoring the hormone. “Our study is important because the cure of dementia is one of the greatest current and future challenges in health care,” says Fernanda De Felice.
At present, despite 30 years of research, there is still no effective medicine for Alzheimer’s disease, which affects 50 million people worldwide.
The benefits of physical exercise on health are well known. In addition to dementia, exercise is also an important ally to fight against cardiovascular and chronic diseases, obesity and mood disorders.