A new study carried out by scientists at Kent State University revealed how the human brain is more similar to that of a primate’s brain that we previously thought, specifically in regards to proteins present that are linked with Alzheimer’s disease. These are amyloid beta and tau. The paper published by the team in Neurobiology of Aging, suggests that the detection of both of these proteins in aged chimpanzees means that Alzheimer’s is not limited to the human brain.

There are many suggestions as to why humans are more susceptible to Alzheimer’s than other species. Maybe it’s because of the genetic differences from other primates, or changes to the human brain during evolution.

Maybe it’s because we have a longer lifespan. To get a true comparison of an elderly chimps brain to an elderly human is not that easy, simply because finding a chimp aged over 60 is rare. Out of the 20 chimpanzees used in the study, 8 were males aged between 39-62, while 12 were females aged between 37-58.

On conclusion of the study, senior author Mary Ann Raghanti, lead author Melissa Edler, and the rest of the research team found significant evidence of amyloid beta and tau lesions in the same area of the brain that is affected by Alzheimer’s in humans. While these results do prove to be promising, they are still inconclusive as currently rely on autopsy results as opposed to cognitive testing in which to get the data. To date, there are no studies that use this data and autopsy results from the same ape to distinguish any differences between normal and pathologic aging. “This research underscores the value of basic, comparative research in advancing our understanding of disease etiology and therapeutic targets,” said program director for NSF’s Biological Anthropology program, Rebecca Ferrell.

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