Brain Plaque

Brain Plaque - Is It Real? 

(May 28, 2009, “Is brain plaque real?”

Yes, it is, although it has little in common with the plaque found on your teeth and gums.

The “plaque” doctors talk about when they talk about plaque in the brain is known as amyloid plaque and it is a sticky protein buildup on the outside of nerve cells. These plaques are one of two abnormalities doctors look for before they make a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. (The other is something known as neurofibrillary tangles.)

No one really understands why these plaques can exist in the brain for years without causing symptoms of Alzheimer’s or why they cause such problems in the brain. The protein they’re made of is actually found throughout the rest of the body.

One theory says that the protein, for some reason, forms a substance known as beta amyloid. Beta amyloid is toxic to brain neurons. Exactly why is unknown although it may be related to how the neurons react to too much calcium.

One thing doctors do know is that some people are genetically programmed to get rid of these plaques better than others. Scientists know that a specific gene is linked to Alzheimer’s and they believe that this gene may make some kind of a chemical that protects the beta amyloid from being destroyed.

So, to answer your question, brain plaque is very real. To find out more about amyloid plaques and their role in Alzheimer’s talk to your primary care physician. He or she can explain this far better than I and can give you the medical advice that’s right for you.

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