According to new research, the brains of three species of dolphin found stranded along the Scottish coast bore the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, providing greater insight into the disease in species other than humans.
The findings may also provide an explanation for unexplained dolphin strandings along the coast, according to the researchers.
Alzheimer’s disease is a common neurodegenerative disorder that primarily affects older people, causing memory loss, forgetfulness, and confusion.
Researchers in Scotland conducted postmortem studies on the brains of 22 odontocetes, or toothed whales, according to a study published December 13 in the European Journal of Neuroscience, making their findings more detailed than others, the authors said.
“It’s more in depth and breadth as it looks at larger numbers of animals from several different species of cetaceans known to be aged for the species (older in age),”
Coauthor and senior clinician in anatomic pathology at the University of Glasgow, Mark Dagleish.
The research looked at Risso’s dolphins, long-finned pilot whales, white-beaked dolphins, harbour porpoises, and bottlenose dolphins. There were 18 aged specimens among the 22 examined.
“Critically, (it) examined the whole brains to provide lesion (abnormality) profiles using more markers of Alzheimer’s disease,” Dagleish added, with the same techniques used for human tissues.
Three aged dolphins — a long-finned pilot whale, a white-beaked dolphin, and a bottlenose dolphin — were found to have brain changes, or lesions, similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans.
Tara Spires-Jones, another study coauthor, said in a statement this week that researchers “were fascinated to see brain changes in aged dolphins similar to those in human (aging) and Alzheimer’s disease.”
“Whether these pathological changes contribute to these animals stranding is an interesting and important question for future work,” said Spires-Jones, the personal chair of neurodegeneration at the University of Edinburgh’s Deanery of Biomedical Sciences.
To read our blog on “28-foot-long baleen whale found dead near Karachi,” click here