Besides the standard health benefits of exercise, studies have shown exercise may also be able to help lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and prevent its progression. However, it was poorly understood just how this effect was occurring at the molecular level.
A new study published in Nature Medicine by researchers at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada found the exercise hormone, irisin, is an important player in the mental benefits of exercise and is able to ameliorate the effects of Alzheimer’s.
Irisin is a product of the prohormone FNDC5, fibronectin type III domain-containing protein 5, and is made in and released from the muscles during exercise, classifying it as a “myokine” and earning its name the “Exercise Hormone.”
“Defective brain hormonal signaling has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), a disorder characterized by synapse and memory failure,” says Dr. Fernanda G. De Felice, Here we show that FNDC5/irisin levels are reduced in AD hippocampi and cerebrospinal fluid.”¹ The researchers found that by increasing levels of irisin in the brain, they were able to increase memory functions in mice with Alzheimer’s disease
Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers, and Alzheimer’s patients have a breakdown in the brain’s communication. The protein hormone irisin is named for the Greek goddess Iris who was the messenger of the gods, so it seems only fitting that it is involved in fighting this communication impairment.
It is a very exciting piece of research indeed! In patients with early signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s, there is hope irisin hormone therapy may hold a key to staving off the disease.
Exercise Hormone May Slow Alzheimer’s Progression
NEUROSCIENCE NEWS JANUARY 8, 2019
FEATURED: NEUROLOGY NEUROSCIENCE
Summary: Researchers report the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease contain less of the exercise related hormone called irisin. Boosting levels of irisin in the brain could slow the progression of the neurodegenerative disease.
Source: Queen’s University.
Queen’s University researcher Fernanda De Felice (Psychiatry), along with co-authors from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, have identified an exercise-linked hormone that could slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. This research was recently published in the high-profile publication, Nature Medicine.
The findings show that irisin, a hormone that is boosted by exercise, plays an important role in the brain and that Alzheimer patients carry less of the hormone. This discovery moves scientists one step closer to developing a medication that reproduces the effects of exercise-induced irisin production in the brain.
“In the past few years, researchers from many places around the world have shown that exercise is an effective tool to prevent different forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s” says Dr. De Felice, a researcher in the Centre for Neuroscience Studies at Queen’s. “This has led to an intense search for specific molecules that are responsible for the protective actions of exercise in the brain. Because irisin seems to be powerful in rescuing disrupted synapses that allow communication between brain cells and memory formation, it may become a medication to fight memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease.”²