Stranded dolphins’ brains show common signs of Alzheimer’s disease – study

According to new research, the brains of stranded dolphins show some of the changes associated with human Alzheimer’s disease.

The scientists suggest their findings could help explain why some species got stranded.

They say the study could support the sick leader theory, whereby a group of otherwise healthy animals end up in dangerously shallow water after following a group leader who may have become confused or lost.

According to the most extensive study of dementia in odontocetes (toothed whales), the brains of three different species of stranded dolphins show classic markers of human Alzheimer’s disease.

The collaboration between the University of Glasgow, the universities of St Andrews and Edinburgh and the Moredun Research Institute studied the brains of 22 toothed whales which had all washed up in Scottish coastal waters.

Published in the European Journal of Neuroscience, the study looked at five different species: Risso’s dolphins, pilot whales, white-beaked dolphins, harbor porpoises and bottlenose dolphins.

He found that four animals from different dolphin species exhibited some of the brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease in humans.

Whales, dolphins and porpoises are often stranded around UK coastlines, found stranded in groups, or groups, in shallow water and sometimes on beaches.

While some animals can be moved to safer and deeper waters by teams of experts, other animals are less fortunate and perish as a result.

The underlying causes of live stranding events are not always clear and research is ongoing to obtain better information.

For the study, the researchers examined the brains of stranded animals for signs of Alzheimer’s disease, including the formation of beta-amyloid plaques.

The results reveal that the brains of all the aged animals studied had beta-amyloid plaques.

However, the study cannot confirm whether any of the animals would have suffered from the same cognitive deficits associated with clinical Alzheimer’s disease in humans.

Lead researcher Dr Mark Dagleish from the University of Glasgow said: “These are important findings which show, for the first time, that brain pathology in stranded odontocetes is similar to the brains of humans affected by the disease. of clinical Alzheimer’s.

“While it is tempting at this point to speculate that the presence of these brain lesions in toothed whales indicates that they may also be suffering from the cognitive deficits associated with human Alzheimer’s disease, further research needs to be conducted to better understand what happens to these animals.”

Professor Tara Spires-Jones, from the University of Edinburgh, said: “We were fascinated to see brain changes in older dolphins similar to those of human aging and Alzheimer’s disease. Whether these pathological changes contribute to the stranding of these animals is an interesting and important question for future work.

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