Research Finds New Evidence Linking Herpes Virus And Alzheimer’s Disease

Research Finds New Evidence Linking Herpes Virus And Alzheimer’s Disease

Research Finds New Evidence Linking Herpes Virus And Alzheimer’s Disease

The researchers were initially looking to come up with drugs to treat the disease but after making the computers models and running their data through it, preliminary results indicated that the genes changing in the Alzheimer's patients' brains were "known to have antiviral or antimicrobial activities".

"Previous studies of viruses and Alzheimer's have always been very indirect". After an 18-month study examining the effects of nutritional compounds found in foods such as trout, broccoli and peppers on people with Alzheimers, the team from the Nutrition Research Centre Ireland (NRCI) claims to have done a ‘statistically significant finding.

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.

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Viruses that sneak into the brain just might play a role in Alzheimer's, scientists reported Thursday in a provocative study that promises to reignite some long-debated theories about what triggers the mind-robbing disease. The research team assessed up to 1000 postmortem brains of people who had Alzheimer's disease and those who did not. HHV-6A and HHV-7 - the two herpes viruses were found more frequently than others in brains of people who had Alzheimer's disease. "We mapped out the social network, if you will, of which genes the viruses are friends with and who they're talking to inside the brain", Dudley says.

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. "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".

The team found that brains affected by Alzheimer's had a higher level of viral genetic material, majority being human herpes viruses, known as HHV6a and HHV7. 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. That brings the number of effective Alzheimer's treatments based on the amyloid cascade hypothesis to ... zero, making the need for new ideas more urgent than ever.

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What the study looks like, is that the herpes virus interacts with molecular "pathways" as well as with Alzheimer's risk genes. Thus, Readhead admits that there must be other mechanisms that determine why some people respond differently to the virus. (The hypothesis says that production of an aberrant protein called amyloid-beta creates sticky plaques that destroy brain synapses and neurons.) This year alone has brought the demise of the Eli Lilly/AstraZeneca drug lanabecestat; Lilly's solanezumab; and Merck's verubecestat.

"The Mount Sinai paper tells us the viral side of the story". "The brain was always thought to be a sterile place".

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