Can herpes virus cause Alzheimer's disease?

26 June, 2018, 16:45 | Author: Lillian Steele
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With costs of care running into the trillions of dollars by that time, scientists are working urgently to understand the disease in hopes of finding a cure or at least an effective treatment.

Once the researchers realised that these viruses have a link to the Alzheimer's disease, they immediately tried to identify what role the two herpes virus genes played in affecting the other genes in the brain.

Interestingly, the researchers who made the discovery were not really looking for viruses or viral genes in the brain, but instead were searching for new ways to treat Alzheimer's disease with now existing drugs.

This helps resurrect an old theory that Alzheimer's could be caused by one or many viruses accumulating in the brain.

It has always been a controversial theory about Alzheimer's disease, often dismissed by experts as a sketchy cul-de-sac off the beaten path from mainstream research.

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"Similar to other studies in this area, while this is robust research, it could not prove that the viruses actually were responsible for the disease", said James Pickett, the head of research at Alzheimer's Society.

The team found viral genetic material at far higher levels in Alzheimer's-affected brains than in normal ones. The study titled, "Multiscale Analysis of Independent Alzheimer's Cohorts Finds Disruption of Molecular, Genetic, and Clinical Networks by Human Herpesvirus" appeared in the latest issue of the journal Neuron, this Thursday. "The title of the talk that I usually give is, 'I Went Looking for Drug Targets, and All I found Were These Lousy Viruses, ' " he said. Researchers also found in the new study that the herpes virus was involved in networks that regulate the generation of amyloid proteins. Most abundant were two human herpes viruses, known as HHV6a and HHV7, that infect most people during childhood, often with no symptoms, and then lie dormant in the body.

But that the Herpes viruses might generate a response in the immune system which in turn might increase the collection of a protein called "amyloid" in the brain.

"This is the most compelling evidence ever presented that points to a viral contribution to the cause or progression of Alzheimer's", said one of the study's authors, Sam Gandy, MD, PhD, professor of neurology and psychiatry and director of the Center for Cognitive Health and NFL Neurological Care at Mount Sinai.

Exploring the significance of viruses in the brain is still at its early stages, and a key question is whether pathogens play an active role in causing disease or are opportunistic, taking advantage of neural deterioration. Initially, the team set out to examine differences between healthy brains and those with Alzheimer's in an effort to find novel ways that existing drugs might be used to treat the disease. "The Alzheimer's Association welcomes new ideas in the Alzheimer's field and new avenues to pursue for potential treatments and prevention strategies".

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