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Is Alzheimer's Contagious?

Tuesday, 04 Oct 2011 09:35 PM


Can you catch Alzheimer's?
That's the implication of newly published research at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston that found that some cases of the dementia-causing illness may be contagious.
"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.
Editor's Note: Improving Memory Can Reduce Risk of Alzheimers
"The underlying mechanism of Alzheimer's disease is very similar to the prion diseases (such as mad cow). 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."
Alzheimer's disease is a form of progressive dementia that affects memory, thinking, and behavior. There are an estimated 5.4 million cases of Alzheimer's in the United States.
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. "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."
The results showing a potentially infectious spreading of Alzheimer's disease were published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.
Editor's Note: Improving Memory Can Reduce Risk of Alzheimers

© HealthDay

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