In DepthNeuroscience

Elderly chimps may get Alzheimer's disease

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Science  04 Aug 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6350, pp. 440
DOI: 10.1126/science.357.6350.440

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Summary

Researchers have discovered tell-tale signs of Alzheimer's disease in 20 elderly chimpanzee brains, rekindling a decades-old debate over whether humans are the only species that develop the debilitating condition. By examining brain regions afflicted by Alzheimer's in humans, the team discovered that 13 chimps had amyloid plaques, and four also had the neurofibrillary tangles typical of more advanced stages of Alzheimer's. Whether chimps actually succumb to Alzheimer's or are immune from symptoms despite having the key brain abnormalities is unclear, because there were no behavioral data to indicate that these animals developed dementia. But either way, the work suggests that chimps could help scientists better understand the disease and how to fight it. And although some scientists are eager to begin new studies on chimps, but many wonder whether such research on these now-endangered animals will receive moral, or monetary, support.