General Anesthetics and Alzheimer’s Disease


The goal of this project is to test the hypothesis that desflurane is a safer anesthetic than isoflurane for AD patients in order to find safer anesthetics that won’t worsen AD symptoms.

Age is one of the most important risk factors for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), with an incidence of 6.8 percent in people older than 65 years. One-third of all anesthetics are administered to people older than 65. Therefore, it is inevitable that many older patients who present to anesthesiologists will have AD. Just as the anesthesia specialty became intimately involved with the management of coronary artery disease (CAD), it is time for the anesthesiology specialty to develop guidelines for safer anesthesia care for AD patients. As the first step of these efforts, Dr. Zhongcong Xie and his fellow researchers will set out to identify anesthetics that will exacerbate the AD pathology, such as neuronal death, increases of Abeta levels, learning/memory impairment and synapse loss.

In their preliminary studies, they found the inhalation anesthetic isoflurane, but not desflurane, can induce cell death and increase Abeta levels in the cultured cells. In this application they will repeat these experiments in the mice having AD pathology (Aim #1) and in real human AD patients (Aim #3). In addition, they will study the up-stream mechanism of the anesthetics-induced cell death and increases in Abeta levels (Aim #2). The hypothesis they will test is desflurane is a safer anesthetic than isoflurane for both AD patients and normal patients. The anticipated results from the proposed studies will finally help them find safer anesthetics, which may not worsen the AD symptoms (e.g., learning/memory impairment). These efforts are consistent with the goals of Cure Alzheimer’s Fund research grant program in identifying the risk factors of AD and in finding the prospects and strategies for the prevention of AD, which, ultimately, will help AD patients.

Funding to Date



Studies of Alternative Neurodegenerative Pathways, Translational


Zhongcong Xie, M.D., Ph.D.