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Are Herpes Viruses Responsible For Alzheimer's Disease?
26 June 2018, 04:45 | Melissa Porter
These Slices of Human Brains Revealed an Alzheimer's Clue
Now, researchers have found that not only patients with Alzheimer's disease have an increased level of two strains of the herpes virus, but the viral genes are actively destroying the human genes, which increases the risk of dementia.
Two strains of a virus in the brain have been linked to Alzheimer's disease (AD) in the most comprehensive study of its kind ever done.
The results, based on tests of brain tissue from almost 1,000 people, found that two strains of herpes virus were far more abundant in the brains of those with early-stage Alzheimer's than in healthy controls. Readhead said the connection between finding the virus in the blood and it activating the Alzheimer's genes and triggering the disease is still not understood well. This is also the first evidence that integration of HHV genomes into human brain genomes may play a role in the etiology of Alzheimer's.
The current research marks its presence in the journal Neuron.
Experts feel it will take more research and studies to convince the medical community of this virus and Alzheimer's theory.
According to one of the study's senior authors, Sam Gandy, although viral and genetic causes are often seen separately, it is possible that the viral protein acts as transcription factors that turn on the Alzheimer's disease genes.
Just having a herpes virus "does not mean you're going to get Alzheimer's", Mass General's Tanzi stressed.
Dudley said this kind of research has always been controversial in the community. Researchers also found in the new study that the herpes virus was involved in networks that regulate the generation of amyloid proteins.
"Our hypothesis is that they put gas on the flame", Joel Dudley, an author of the study and an associate professor of genetics and genomic sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai in New York City, toldNPR. This theory is considered controversial, but now researchers from the center of Mount Sinai has discovered new evidence of the link between herpes viruses and senile dementia. "Not even close. We were trying to find drugs that could be repurposed to treat Alzheimer's patients, but the patterns that emerged from our data-driven analysis all pointed towards these viral biology themes".
Ben Readhead, the study's lead author said that the goal of the study was to find ways to understand the disease and treat it better.
Recall that a virus the herpes infected nearly everything.
"While these findings do potentially open the door for new treatment options to explore in a disease where we've had hundreds of failed trials, they don't change anything that we know about the risk and susceptibility of Alzheimer's disease or our ability to treat it today", Gandy said.
"With an illness this bad, we can not afford to dismiss all scientific possibilities", said Dr. John Morris, who directs the Alzheimer's research center at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
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