Links Between the Pathology of Alzheimer's Disease and Vascular Dementia
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The major neuropathological lesions defining Alzheimer's disease (AD) include neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques, which are mainly composed of abnormally phosphorylated tau and amyloid-β (Aβ), respectively. Numerous neuropathological and neuroimaging studies indicate that at least one-third of AD cases are complicated by some degree of vascular pathology, whereas in a similar proportion of patients clinically diagnosed with vascular dementia, AD pathology is also present. Many classical vascular risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and hypercholesterolemia have recently been shown also to increase the risk of AD. Growing evidence suggests that vascular pathology lowers the threshold for the clinical presentation of dementia at a given level of AD-related pathology and potentially directly promotes AD lesions such as Aβ plaques. Cerebral ischemia chronically up-regulates expression of the amyloid precursor protein (APP), which is the precursor to the amyloid β peptide and damages the blood–brain barrier (BBB), affecting Aβ peptide clearance from the brain. Recognition of the importance of these vascular risk factors for AD-related dementia and their treatment will be beneficial not only for preventing cardiac, cerebral, and peripheral complications of vascular disease, but also will likely have a direct impact on the occurrence of sporadic AD in older subjects. In this paper, we review some of the links between vascular risk factors and AD pathology and present data on the direct effect of ischemia on cognitive function and Aβ deposition in a mouse model of AD.
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