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Have Scientists Misunderstood Alzheimer’s For the Last 30 Years?

Can Alzheimer’s stem from a simple bacterial or viral infection?

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A controversial, new study may turn our understanding of Alzheimer’s upside down.

It is a well known fact that because of ageing, people with Alzheimer’s have plaque throughout their brain. The buildup of plaque eventually blocks the brain signals which leads to loss of memory.

But what if that plaque was a result of an infection from fruit flies, worms or yeast? What if simple bacterial or fungal infections were responsible for the disease?

From over three decades, scientists have been fixated with the idea that plaque build-up in the brain is the reason behind Alzheimer’s, so no one really bothered to ask, ‘what if something else was going on besides ageing?’.

Our only complaint, why didn’t anyone think of the crucial ‘what if’ before?

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The Controversial Study

Can Alzheimer’s stem from a simple bacterial or viral infection?
The Harvard School of Medicine has an interesting theory about Alzheimer’s which could the we perceive the disease (Photo: iStock)

In what seems like a scene straight from a science fiction film, a team of scientists at the Harvard School of Medicine explain that:

Each time you catch a cold, get mouth sores or a rash, the proteins in your immune system encircle the bacteria, virus or fungus to kill it and stop from spreading. The left over protein keeps roaming in the body till it is flushed out.

Our brains also have a ‘blood barrier’ sort of a thing which prevents infections from attacking the brain. Pretty cool, right? But when you grow old, the ‘blood barrier’ becomes leaky. Scientists think this porous barrier allows the simple infections to seep in and after the beta-proteins are done fighting them off, the leftovers clump together to form plaque inside the brain.

What’s fascinating is that this theory has been proved in neurons on the petri-dish and in mice.

As of now, there is no Sherlock moment or a direct correlation to prove the same thing will happen in humans but it did happen in mice! And that’s amazing news to the families of the 47 million Alzheimier’s patients around the world.

The next step is to test the brains of people who died from Alzheimer’s to see the origins of the microbes which entered the brain. Plans and funding for the human trials are on but scientists are very excited by this revolutionary hypothesis.

Imagine the possibility if this novel idea were true?

0

Possible Consequences

Can Alzheimer’s stem from a simple bacterial or viral infection?
More research is needed to determine whether the link is definitive, but other experts in the field are calling the findings “provocative

Further trials are required to conclusively prove the theory, but this study dismisses a lot of facts we knew about the basics of Alzheimer’s.

If this ‘proof of concept’ can be proved accurate, it could mean that future treatment of Alzheimer’s will not only be focussed on trying to completely remove the protein build-up from the brain because it could be the one thing trying to fight off an unseen infection. Instead the treatment could target the root microbes which enter the brain, or fix the leaky blood barrier. It could also mean that antivirals and antibiotics could stop the start of one of the most debilitating diseases known to man.

Who knows how any of this will pan out but one thing is clear - Alzheimer’s is not a part of normal ageing. It strikes people without prejudice. Any step closer to understanding the mysteries of the brain is a step in the right direction.

Scientists are awesome that way.

Also Read: Alzheimer’s Disease: Can We Treat It 20 Years Before It Strikes?

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

A controversial, new study may turn our understanding of Alzheimer’s upside down.

It is a well known fact that because of ageing, people with Alzheimer’s have plaque throughout their brain. The buildup of plaque eventually blocks the brain signals which leads to loss of memory.

But what if that plaque was a result of an infection from fruit flies, worms or yeast? What if simple bacterial or fungal infections were responsible for the disease?

From over three decades, scientists have been fixated with the idea that plaque build-up in the brain is the reason behind Alzheimer’s, so no one really bothered to ask, ‘what if something else was going on besides ageing?’.

Our only complaint, why didn’t anyone think of the crucial ‘what if’ before?

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

The Controversial Study

Can Alzheimer’s stem from a simple bacterial or viral infection?
The Harvard School of Medicine has an interesting theory about Alzheimer’s which could the we perceive the disease (Photo: iStock)

In what seems like a scene straight from a science fiction film, a team of scientists at the Harvard School of Medicine explain that:

Each time you catch a cold, get mouth sores or a rash, the proteins in your immune system encircle the bacteria, virus or fungus to kill it and stop from spreading. The left over protein keeps roaming in the body till it is flushed out.

Our brains also have a ‘blood barrier’ sort of a thing which prevents infections from attacking the brain. Pretty cool, right? But when you grow old, the ‘blood barrier’ becomes leaky. Scientists think this porous barrier allows the simple infections to seep in and after the beta-proteins are done fighting them off, the leftovers clump together to form plaque inside the brain.

What’s fascinating is that this theory has been proved in neurons on the petri-dish and in mice.

As of now, there is no Sherlock moment or a direct correlation to prove the same thing will happen in humans but it did happen in mice! And that’s amazing news to the families of the 47 million Alzheimier’s patients around the world.

The next step is to test the brains of people who died from Alzheimer’s to see the origins of the microbes which entered the brain. Plans and funding for the human trials are on but scientists are very excited by this revolutionary hypothesis.

Imagine the possibility if this novel idea were true?

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Possible Consequences

Can Alzheimer’s stem from a simple bacterial or viral infection?
More research is needed to determine whether the link is definitive, but other experts in the field are calling the findings “provocative

Further trials are required to conclusively prove the theory, but this study dismisses a lot of facts we knew about the basics of Alzheimer’s.

If this ‘proof of concept’ can be proved accurate, it could mean that future treatment of Alzheimer’s will not only be focussed on trying to completely remove the protein build-up from the brain because it could be the one thing trying to fight off an unseen infection. Instead the treatment could target the root microbes which enter the brain, or fix the leaky blood barrier. It could also mean that antivirals and antibiotics could stop the start of one of the most debilitating diseases known to man.

Who knows how any of this will pan out but one thing is clear - Alzheimer’s is not a part of normal ageing. It strikes people without prejudice. Any step closer to understanding the mysteries of the brain is a step in the right direction.

Scientists are awesome that way.

Also Read: Alzheimer’s Disease: Can We Treat It 20 Years Before It Strikes?

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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