Alzheimer's may be behind dolphin strandings in Scotland

A few weeks ago there was an epocal dolphin stranding in Scotland.

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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Alzheimer's may be behind dolphin strandings in Scotland

A few weeks ago there was an epocal dolphin stranding in Scotland. According to what emerged from the first studies, Alzheimer's could be the cause of the strandings of at least three species of dolphin, as markers of the degenerative disease have been identified in at least three specimens of the species.

The discovery was made by a team of researchers from the Universities of Glasgow, St Andrews and Edinburgh and the Moredun Research Institute in Scotland, and the study was published in the European Journal of Neuroscience.

The cetaceans tested washed up on Scottish coasts, and a white-beaked dolphin, a bottlenose dolphin and a long-finned pilot had markers of Alzheimer's. Among these markers, identified in dolphins, are abnormal levels of the protein amyloid-beta accumulated in plaques that disrupt neurons in the brain, and the presence of another protein, called tau, gathered in tangles within neurons, ultimately as third marker was an accumulation of glial cells that cause inflammation of the brain.

Alzheimer's may be behind dolphin strandings in Scotland

Mark Dagleish, pathologist and lead researcher at the University of Glasgow, explained: 'These are significant results which show, for the first time, that brain pathology in blocked odontocetes is similar to the brains of humans suffering from clinical Alzheimer's disease.

Although While it is tempting to speculate at this stage that the presence of these brain lesions in odontocetes indicates that they may also suffer from the cognitive deficits associated with human Alzheimer's disease, more research needs to be done to better understand what is happening to these animals when they are still alive." Tara Spiers-Jones, lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, added: 'We were fascinated to see brain changes in elderly dolphins similar to those of human aging and Alzheimer's disease.

Whether these pathological changes contribute to the stranding of these animals is a interesting and important question for future work."