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Transferability of pathological amyloid beta proteins confirmed
Alzheimer's is a feared neurodegenerative disease that primarily affects the elderly and has increased dramatically in recent decades. In 2015, researchers at Univesity College London had already suspected that the disease could be transmitted via the misfolded amyloid proteins. In laboratory tests on mice, they now confirmed the suspicion.
Alzheimer's is considered a non-communicable disease. The British scientists emphasize that there is no risk of infection during normal contact with those affected. However, a study from 2015 already showed the first indications that the pathological amyloid beta proteins could possibly be transmitted from person to person in the course of medical treatments. The researchers at University College London have now been able to confirm this in their current study. Their results were published in the "Nature" magazine.
Transmission in hormone therapy?
"Our previous study found that some people who developed Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease many years after treatment with pituitary growth hormones also had brain deposits of an abnormal protein that is characteristic of Alzheimer's disease," reports the lead author the study, Professor John Collinge from the starting point of the current investigation. The researchers suspected the cause was the transfer of the misfolded protein structures with the growth hormones. In their current study, they have initially shown that the pituitary growth hormones actually contain the corresponding amyloid beta proteins.
Contamination of the growth hormones detected
"The results support the hypothesis that amyloid beta was accidentally transmitted to patients due to this long-interrupted medical treatment," the scientists explain in a press release. Human growth hormone - which was made from human tissue before 1985 - did indeed contain attachments of the amyloid beta protein of Alzheimer's disease. In the next step, the research team checked whether the protein contaminants in the growth hormones also lead to the development of the amyloid deposits that are typical of Alzheimer's disease.
Trials on mice
The researchers injected genetically manipulated mice into the contaminated growth hormone into the brain and were able to find that after less than twelve months "a clear sowing of the amyloid pathology in their brain" took place. The same was observed in mice injected with tissue from patients with typical Alzheimer's disease. However, mice injected with synthetic growth hormones or normal brain tissue showed no such pattern.
Amyloid beta pathology is transferable
"We have now provided experimental evidence to support our hypothesis that amyloid beta pathology can be transmitted to humans from contaminated materials," said Professor Collinge. It is not yet possible to say clearly whether medical or surgical interventions can cause or transmit Alzheimer's disease in humans. "It will be important to review the risks of transmission of amyloid pathology in other medical procedures that are still used today, including instruments for brain surgery," said the expert.
There is a risk of infection if you come into contact with Alzheimer's patients
The current study provides new insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying the role of amyloid in Alzheimer's disease, but the researchers emphasized that there is currently no evidence of Alzheimer's transmission between people. The study provides no evidence that you can get Alzheimer's disease from contact with a sick person. (fp)