The findings, published in the FASEB Journal (Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology), are of particular concern for dentists and surgeons whose patients have Alzheimer’s or who are at higher risk for the disease.
“We hope that this research will initiate an interest in taking precautions to limit the impact of anesthesia on the disease,” said Emmanuel Planel of Columbia University Medical Center, one of the scientists involved in the research.
In their study, the scientists took two groups of mice that make a protein known as tau, which is known to accumulate in the brain cells of Alzheimer’s sufferers. One group was subjected to anesthesia, while the control group was not. A week later, the amount of tau protein clumps in each mouse’s brain cells was assayed. It was found that there were more tau clumps in the brains of the group receiving anesthesia than in those of the control group. Moreover, in mice in the advanced stages of dementia, tau protein accumulated faster than in mice in the early stages.
“Every patient wants a surgeon with a cool head,” said Gerald Weissmann, editor in chief of the FASEB Journal, “but surgeons might not want the same for their patients. People are anesthetized for all kinds of reasons, even dental work, but this study really should make patients and doctors reconsider whether it’s really necessa