Beta Amyloid Risk Factors, Treatment: Causes of Alzheimer’s Disease

Explore what affects the amount of Beta Amyloid in your brain & how it explains certain Alzheimer’s risk factors and motivates treatment research. At The Emergent Universe, an online interactive science museum about emergence.

What’s aging got to do with it?

One theory is that as we age the amount of non-fibril Beta Amyloid in our brains tends to increase. Since this quantity correlates with the degree of Alzheimer’s dementia, it would explain why Alzheimer’s usually afflicts the elderly.

What controls the amount of Beta Amyloid in our brains?

Genetic variations

In nearly all cases of Familial Alzheimer’s, the disease is passed on by genes containing mutations that increase the production of the longer Beta Amyloid 42 form of Beta Amyloid.


Some of the mechanisms that remove Beta Amyloid from the brain, including drainage to the rest of the body and enzymes that break down Beta Amyloid, are thought to slow with age.

Immune response

The body has a normal immune response that clears small aggregates of Beta Amyloid, and a potential treatment avenue is to stimulate this immune response. Unfortunately, straightforward vaccination with Beta Amyloid aggregates, while effective in mouse models, generated severe side effects in ~5% of humans. As of 2008, researchers were still searching for safer vaccination alternatives.

Enzyme inhibitors

Many researchers are exploring pharmaceuticals that may reduce the production of Beta Amyloid from APP by altering the enzymes beta-secretase or gamma-secretase.

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Beta Amyloid Production Rate

Beta Amyloid Loss Rate

Amount of Beta Amyloid in the brain