Alzheimer's as a Transmissible Disease?

An unpleasant conjecture outlined via EurekAlert!: "The brain damage that characterizes Alzheimer's disease may originate in a form similar to that of infectious prion diseases such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob, according to newly published research ... Our findings open the possibility that some of the sporadic Alzheimer's cases may arise from an infectious process, which occurs with other neurological diseases such as mad cow and its human form, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The underlying mechanism of Alzheimer's disease is very similar to the prion diseases. It involves a normal protein that becomes misshapen and is able to spread by transforming good proteins to bad ones. The bad proteins accumulate in the brain, forming plaque deposits that are believed to kill neuron cells in Alzheimer's. ... Researchers injected the brain tissue of a confirmed Alzheimer's patient into mice and compared the results to those from injected tissue of a control without the disease. None of the mice injected with the control showed signs of Alzheimer's, whereas all of those injected with Alzheimer's brain extracts developed plaques and other brain alterations typical of the disease. ... We took a normal mouse model that spontaneously does not develop any brain damage and injected a small amount of Alzheimer's human brain tissue into the animal's brain. The mouse developed Alzheimer's over time and it spread to other portions of the brain. We are currently working on whether disease transmission can happen in real life under more natural routes of exposure." It's probably best not to get too worked up about this sort of thing, concerning though it is. Many conditions can be made to be transmissible through the intervention of biotechnology, but that doesn't mean they are normally so in any meaningful way, and the prion diseases are not easy to transmit. The assumption at this point, based on the weight of evidence, should still be that Alzheimer's is something that in the vast majority of cases your body does on its own, and you bear a level of risk strongly associated with your lifestyle choices.

Link: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-10/uoth-uam100311.php

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