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Blood Inflammation Plays Role in Alzheimer’s Disease, Framingham Study Finds

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By American Academy of Neurology • • June 7, 2007

Higher levels of cytokines - protein messengers that trigger inflammation -“may be a marker of future risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” according to this release from the American Academy of Neurology.

St. Paul, Minnesota – May 28, 2007: People whose blood shows signs of inflammation are more likely to later develop Alzheimer’s disease than people with no signs of inflammation, according to a study published in the May 29, 2007, issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology. [To see an abstract of the article click here. ]

The study, which is part of the larger Framingham Heart Study, involved 691 healthy people with an average age of 79. Blood tests determined whether the participants had signs of inflammation. Then the participants were followed for an average of seven years. During that time, 44 of the participants developed Alzheimer’s disease.

The participants’ blood was tested for levels of cytokines, which are protein messengers that trigger inflammation. Those with the highest amount of cytokines in their blood were more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as those with the lowest amount of cytokines. A total of 28 percent of the women and 30 percent of the men had high levels of cytokines, yet they made up 42 percent of the cases of Alzheimer’s disease.

“These results provide further evidence that inflammation plays a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease,” said study author Zaldy Tan, MD, MPH, of Harvard Medical School in Boston. “The production of these cytokines may be a marker of future risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”

The study was supported by grants from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute on Aging, the Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center, and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s Framingham Heart Study.

The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 20,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through education and research. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit

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