Research suggests that the dolphins may be stranded in Scottish waters because they suffer from animal Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists examined the brains of three types of stranded dolphins and found that they exhibited typical markers of Alzheimer’s disease in humans.
A study at the Universities of Glasgow, St Andrews, Edinburgh and the Mordan Institute in the Scottish capital analyzed the brains of 22 ivory animals stranded in Scottish coastal waters.
The study, published in the European Journal of Neuroscience, included five species.
They found brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease in humans in four animals of different species of dolphins.
This finding may provide a possible answer to the unexplained live stranding phenomenon in some ivory.
Group leader may be confused
The authors of the study believe it may support the “disease leader” theory. This is where an otherwise healthy herd of animals find themselves in dangerously shallow water after following a group leader who may have become disoriented or lost.
Whales, dolphins and porpoises are regularly stranded around the UK coast. They are often stranded in groups or pods in shallow water and sometimes on beaches.
Some animals are moved to safer, deeper waters by a team of experts, while others are unlucky and die as a result. The underlying causes of live stranding events are not always clear and research is ongoing to gain better insight.
For this study, the researchers examined stranded animals and examined brains that are some of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, such as the formation of amyloid-beta plaques, accumulation of phosphotau, and gliosis (changes in the number of cells that respond to gliosis). examined for the presence of pathologies in damage to the central nervous system).
The results reveal that all aged animals studied had amyloid-beta plaques in their brains.
Three animals in particular, each from a different dentine species, have amyloid-beta plaques and many other dementia-related pathologies in their brains, with several species developing Alzheimer’s-like neuropathology. indicates that
However, this study cannot confirm whether any of the animals suffered from the same cognitive deficits associated with clinical Alzheimer’s disease in humans.
Principal investigator Dr. Mark Dagries of the University of Glasgow said: “These are important demonstrations for the first time that the brain pathology of stranded ivory mimics that of humans affected by clinical Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a discovery.
Needs more research
“Although at this stage it is tempting to speculate that the presence of these brain lesions in ivory animals indicates that humans may also suffer from Alzheimer’s disease-related cognitive deficits. , more research needs to be done to better understand what is happening to these animals.”
Co-author Professor Frank Gunn Moore of the University of St Andrews said, “I’ve always wanted to answer the question, are humans the only ones who get dementia?
“Our findings answer this question because they show that underlying dementia-related pathologies are indeed not exclusively found in human patients.
“This study is a great example of not only different research institutes, but different departments of the life sciences working together.”
Professor Tara Spiers-Jones of the University of Edinburgh said, “We were fascinated by how the brain changes in older dolphins are similar to those in aging humans and Alzheimer’s disease.
“Whether these pathological changes contribute to stranding in these animals is an interesting and important question for future research.”
All animals in this study were examined after a grounding accident. Marine Scotland and Defra fund post-mortem examinations of dead cetaceans (including ivory), pinnipeds and sea turtles stranded in Scottish coastal waters.
A paper entitled “Alzheimer’s-like neuropathology in three species of marine dolphins” was published in the European Journal of Neuroscience.