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Common anaesthetic linked to 'Alzheimer's-type effect'

Common anaesthetic linked to 'Alzheimer's-type effect'
13th November 2008

A commonly-used anaesthetic has been shown to result in Alzheimer's disease-type brain changes, scientists have said.

The gas isoflurane can lead to the generation of toxic amyloid-beta (A-beta) protein in the brains of mice, according to the Annals of Neurology report from a research team based at Massachusetts General Hospital.

It was the first time such an effect has been shown in living mammals, the scientists said.

"This work needs to be confirmed in human studies, but it's looking like isoflurane may not be the best anesthesia to use for patients who already have higher A-beta levels, such as the elderly and Alzheimer's patients," suggested Zhongcong Xie, the study's lead author.

Future investigations will focus on assessing the potential long-term effects of the gas, the expert added.

Meanwhile another study has found that more educated Alzheimer's patients appear able to continue functioning for longer before succumbing to the condition's symptoms.

The research team behind the study, published in the Archives of Neurology, said it appears to lend support to the cognitive reserve hypothesis - the idea that some individuals are able to call on greater cognitive reserves as areas of their brain are damaged.

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