The Impact of Ageing on Neurodegenerative Disease Risk and Progression

🕒 Approximate reading time: 4 minutes

Ageing is a natural process that every human undergoes. It comes with many biological changes, some of which can contribute to an increased risk of various health conditions. Among these conditions, neurodegenerative diseases have a significant association with ageing. In this blog post, we will explore how ageing influences the risk and progression of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

Ageing and Neurodegenerative Diseases

Neurodegenerative diseases are disorders characterised by the progressive loss of structure or function of neurons, including death of neurons. Many neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Huntington's, occur primarily in late adulthood, indicating a strong link with the ageing process.

Biological Changes with Ageing

With ageing, several biological changes occur in the brain:

  1. Neuronal Loss: The number of neurons decreases with age. This loss particularly affects specific regions associated with learning, memory, and movement, which are areas often impacted in neurodegenerative diseases.

  2. Mitochondrial Dysfunction: Ageing affects the functioning of mitochondria, the energy-producing structures in cells. Impaired mitochondrial function can lead to increased oxidative stress, further contributing to neuronal damage.

  3. Increased Inflammation: Ageing is associated with increased levels of inflammation in the brain. This chronic neuroinflammation may contribute to the progression of neurodegenerative diseases.

  4. Impaired Protein Homeostasis: As we age, the cellular mechanisms responsible for maintaining protein quality control become less efficient, potentially leading to the accumulation of misfolded proteins, a common feature in many neurodegenerative diseases.

Ageing and Disease Progression

Not only does ageing increase the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases, but it also influences the rate at which these diseases progress. The biological changes associated with ageing can exacerbate the pathological processes of these diseases, leading to faster progression.

The Future of Ageing and Neurodegeneration Research

Understanding the impact of ageing on the risk and progression of neurodegenerative diseases is crucial for developing effective interventions. Current research is focused on unravelling the complex molecular mechanisms that link ageing with these disorders. The ultimate goal is to develop treatments that can slow, halt, or reverse the progression of neurodegenerative diseases, improving quality of life for older individuals.