Medical

New evidence that viruses may play a role in Alzheimer's

New evidence that viruses may play a role in Alzheimer's

"We are excited about the chance to capitalize on this approach to help in the scientific understanding, treatment and prevention of Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases".

They found that viruses called human herpes virus 6 (HHV-6) and HHV-7 were more abundant in the brains of people who died with Alzheimer's.

"When we started analyzing the differences, it just sort of came screaming out at us from the data", Dudley says. "It could be that things are not as binary as we thought, that viruses act one way and genes another".

Results from a major analysis of genetic and molecular networks in the brains of Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients have suggested a role for two human herpesvirus species. They found that viral genes were influencing other known Alzheimer's genes and molecules-evidence that the viruses are directing at least part of the disease process. When they constructed networks that modeled how the viral genes and human genes interacted, they were able to show that the viral genes were regulating and being regulated by the human genes-and that genes associated with increased Alzheimer's risk were impacted. So, while the connection found in this research is intriguing, it can not draw a clear line between the presence of the virus and the onset of Alzheimer's.

Childhood viruses that infect nearly everyone and lie dormant in the body for life might be involved in Alzheimer's disease, researchers reported Thursday. "Now, not only is the viral hypothesis resurrected: it has specific testable pathways and networks and interactions that can be explored and reconciled with the rest of the work emerging in Alzheimer's", said study coauthor Joel Dudley, PhD, in a statement.

Around 850,000 people are living with dementia in Ireland and Britain, and the majority of people have Alzheimer's which occurs when sticky plaques of amyloid build up in the brain, killing brain cells. Multiscale analysis of independent Alzheimer's cohorts finds disruption of molecular, genetic, and clinical networks by human herpesvirus [published online June 21, 2018].

They argue, however, that their work shouldn't make anyone anxious.




If the findings eventually pan out, they could lead to new targets for Alzheimer's treatment.

This is especially true because HHV-6A and HHV-7 are extremely common and often latent or asymptomatic.

"There are still a lot of unanswered questions around how we go from being able to detect it circulating in someone's blood to knowing whether it's active in a state that might be relevant to Alzheimer's disease", says Prof Readhead.

"We did not expect to be working on viruses", Gandy said. It's the data that took us there. "This research reinforces the complexity of Alzheimer's disease, creates opportunities to explore Alzheimer's more thoroughly, and highlights the importance of sharing data freely and widely with the research community". Note: material may have been edited for length and content. In March 2016 in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 33 worldwide scientists penned an editorial urging the research community to seriously consider the idea that pathogens could be involved.

The idea that microbes and viruses may somehow contribute to the onset and progression of AD has been mooted for at last 60 years, but studies have yet to generate definitive evidence, the authors explain. Dudley has met researchers at conferences who have confided in him that they have also collected data implicating pathogens in the disease but that they have been too scared to publish-for fear that they will be ostracized by the Alzheimer's community.

Gandy and Dudley stress that they don't believe Alzheimer's is an infectious disease that can be transmitted like the common cold.

Although the hypothesis that viruses play a part in brain disease isn't new, "this is the first study to provide strong evidence based on unbiased approaches and large datasets that lends support to this line of inquiry", comments NIA director Richard J. Hodes, M.D.


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