Research done at Harvard Medical School has lead to new information as to the cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Building on a hypothesis that the disease had something to do with amyloid proteins, they studied their effective responses to bacteria and viruses that pass in to the brain. What they found out was extraordinary.
Before the study, it was known that Alzheimer’s disease was caused by the build-up of plaque in the brain, but now they know how it gets there. When infection courses through a person’s bloodstream, it can reach the brain if it is untreated. Amyloid proteins cage the harmful germs until they die off. While this response is helpful in preventing death from brain infection, it creates a new problem. The amyloid protein cages are left behind, and they turn in to plaque. These plaques kill nerve cells and lead to the dementia that Alzheimer’s is known for.
What is interesting about amyloid proteins is that some people have a gene responsible for a person producing higher amounts of them and a lessened ability to clean out the brain plaque. People who don’t have it, generally don’t get Alzheimer’s disease because they have a lessened build-up of plaque thanks to less amyloids produced and the ability to clean them out. In other words, by turning off this gene, a person would no longer be genetically predisposed to the disease. This new information hasn’t lead to a cure for those who already have the disease, but it could help with the possible prevention of future cases of it.