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J Neural Transm Suppl. 1998;54:221-36.

Free radicals in Alzheimer's disease.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Würzburg, Federal Republic of Germany.


Alzheimer's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder comprising multisystem atrophies probably caused by multifactorial processes. The disease is characterized by typical neuropathology, impaired synaptic function and massive cell loss. The pathobiochemistry of this disorder involves oxidative stress, which accumulates free radicals leading to excessive lipid peroxidation and neuronal degeneration in certain brain regions. Moreover, radical induced disturbances of DNA, proteins and lipid membranes have been measured. The hypothesis has been proposed that cellular events involving oxidative stress may be one basic pathway leading to neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's disease. In this work we report evidence for increased oxidative stress and disturbed defense mechanisms in Alzheimer's disease, which may result in a self-propagating cascade of neurodegenerative events. Furthermore it is evident from experimental data, that aggregation of beta-amyloid and beta-amyloid toxicity is favourably caused by oxidative stress. Therefore, oxidative stress plays a key role in the conversion of soluble to unsoluble beta-amyloid, suggesting that oxidative stress is primary to the beta-amyloid cascade.

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