Gum infection may be linked to Alzheimer’s disease

27 January, 2019, 01:33 | Author: Lillian Steele
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Recent studies in rodents have found the bacteria do infect regions of the brain affected by Alzheimer's, that gum infections can worsen symptoms in mice genetically engineered to get Alzheimer's, and that gum infections can seemingly lead to brain inflammation and amyloid plaques in previously healthy mice.

"Information from our study can help guide how we assess living Hispanic patients who may have Alzheimer's, to more accurately detect the disease in its early stages", says Helen Jarrett, chair of Alzheimer's research at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

Alzheimer's is a degenerative brain disease and the most common cause of dementia.

The study, published Thursday in the journal Science, suggests that a lack of adequate sleep can advance Alzheimer's while good sleep could help maintain brain health.

University of Louisville researcher Jan Potempa, Ph.D., Department of Oral Immunology and Infectious Diseases in the School of Dentistry, was part of the team of global scientists led by Cortexyme Inc., a privately held, clinical-stage pharmaceutical company.

In the paper, an global team of researchers led by Cortexyme co-founders Stephen Dominy, M.D. and Casey Lynch detail the role of a common bacterium, Porphyromonas gingivalis (Pg), in driving Alzheimer's disease pathology and demonstrate the potential for small molecule inhibitors to block the pathogen.

In addition, the team identified toxic enzymes called gingipains secreted by the bacteria in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, which correlated with two separate markers of the disease: the tau protein, and a protein tag called ubiquitin.

'The upcoming clinical trial will be a crucial test to see if this can be a potential treatment for Alzheimer's'. Later this year the firm will launch a larger trial of the drug, looking for P. gingivalis in spinal fluid, and cognitive improvements, before and after.

Senior author Professor Dr David Holtzman said: "We've known that sleep problems and Alzheimer's are associated in part via a different Alzheimer's protein - amyloid beta - but this study shows that sleep disruption causes the damaging protein tau to increase rapidly and to spread over time".

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In mouse studies, oral infection with the same bacteria led to colonisation of the brain.

Laboratory tests indicated that gingipain enzymes may trigger tau tangles - knots of proteins within neurons that are thought to drive the damage caused by Alzheimer's.

Staying up made people cranky and stressed; while it is hard to judge mouse moods they also rebounded by getting more sleep later on.

But does it mean people should be more anxious about their oral health?

The new study in humans and mice found that sleep deprivation increases levels of the key Alzheimer's protein tau.

A drug developed by the company, COR38, is now in human trials. Some 10 percent experience a severe version of the disease, which erodes the gums and the bones that keep our teeth in place, the authors said.

Moir thinks P. gingivalis is likely one of a variety of pathogens that contribute to the β-amyloid buildup and neuroinflammation.

Researchers studied 405 people enrolled in the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer's Network, an worldwide research program for a rare form of Alzheimer's caused by inherited gene mutations. However, the second theory is the most concerning one.

But, alternatively, it may be that people with Alzheimer's have poorer oral hygiene, perhaps because the condition makes them less able to look after their teeth and gums.

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