Alzheimers May Be Transmissible


obscurely fossiliferous
Valued Senior Member
As if Alzheimers isn't scary enough already:

Alzheimer's Might Be Transmissible in Similar Way as Infectious Prion Diseases, Research Suggests

ScienceDaily (Oct. 4, 2011) — The brain damage that characterizes Alzheimer's disease may originate in a form similar to that of infectious prion diseases such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob, according to newly published research by The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

"Our findings open the possibility that some of the sporadic Alzheimer's cases may arise from an infectious process, which occurs with other neurological diseases such as mad cow and its human form, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease," said Claudio Soto, Ph.D., professor of neurology at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, part of UTHealth. "The underlying mechanism of Alzheimer's disease is very similar to the prion diseases. It involves a normal protein that becomes misshapen and is able to spread by transforming good proteins to bad ones. The bad proteins accumulate in the brain, forming plaque deposits that are believed to kill neuron cells in Alzheimer's."

The results showing a potentially infectious spreading of Alzheimer's disease in animal models were published in the Oct. 4, 2011 online issue of Molecular Psychiatry, part of the Nature Publishing Group. The research was funded by The George P. and Cynthia W. Mitchell Center for Research in Alzheimer's Disease and Related Brain Disorders at UTHealth.

Alzheimer's disease is a form of progressive dementia that affects memory, thinking and behavior. Of the estimated 5.4 million cases of Alzheimer's in the United States, 90 percent are sporadic. The plaques caused by misshapen aggregates of beta amyloid protein, along with twisted fibers of the protein tau, are the two major hallmarks associated with the disease. Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

Researchers injected the brain tissue of a confirmed Alzheimer's patient into mice and compared the results to those from injected tissue of a control without the disease. None of the mice injected with the control showed signs of Alzheimer's, whereas all of those injected with Alzheimer's brain extracts developed plaques and other brain alterations typical of the disease.

"We took a normal mouse model that spontaneously does not develop any brain damage and injected a small amount of Alzheimer's human brain tissue into the animal's brain," said Soto, who is director of the Mitchell Center. "The mouse developed Alzheimer's over time and it spread to other portions of the brain. We are currently working on whether disease transmission can happen in real life under more natural routes of exposure."

UTHealth co-authors of the paper are Rodrigo Morales, Ph.D, postdoctoral fellow, and Claudia Duran-Aniotz, research assistant. Other co-authors are Joaquin Castilla, Ph.D., Basque Foundation for Science, Bilbao, Spain; and Lisbell D. Estrada, Ph.D., Universidad Catolica de Chile, Santiago, Chile. Duran-Anoitz is also a doctoral student at the Universidad de los Andes in Santiago, Chile. Soto, Morales, Castilla and Estrada did a portion of the research at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

Recommend this story on Facebook, Twitter,
and Google +1:

Other bookmarking and sharing tools:
| More

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

Journal Reference:

R Morales, C Duran-Aniotz, J Castilla, L D Estrada, C Soto. De novo induction of amyloid-β deposition in vivo. Molecular Psychiatry, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/mp.2011.120
so...this is kinda like the cancer that the Tasmanian Devils are passing on to each other???
I remember hearing about something like this on NPR and then not being able to find anything about it...
Although I thought it was finding prions in the brains of Alzheimer's victims.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob-Disease and Alzheimers look similar and do similar types of damage.
I've been wondering if Alzheimer's was a prion disease for a while
The research in question is v.interesting, but there is no indication (yet) that AD is a prion disease, and there is no indication (yet) that AD can be transmitted naturally. The results in question are related to the very artificial process of introducing exogenous brain tissue into the brain of a receipient animal. Given that AD results in a variety of altered protein states and aberrant enzyme activity, I don’t find it mega-surprising that introducing AD brain tissue induces AD-like pathogenesis in the recipient. This can be explained without having to invoke a prion-like mode of action.
Yeah, that is what bothered me - that it may be transmissible.

The fact that the presence of misfolded tau protein causes correctly - formed tau to misfold and cease functioning properly is the flag here.

The mouse model used in the above experiment apparently does not develop spongiform encephalopathy except when the misfolded tau is introduced intercranially. Then the misfolded tau causes healthy tau to misfold, spreading the infection to healthy brain tissues. That is why the question of transmission has now been raised.