Viruses may play a role in Alzheimer's disease

A nurse holds the hands of a person suffering from Alzheimer's disease in eastern France in this September 2009 file

Viruses may play a role in Alzheimer's disease

"HHV6a, which is one of the most interesting ones to come out of this study, we saw it regulating a large number of Alzheimer's risk genes and we also saw it regulating a large number of proteins that regulate amyloid production and amyloid is the main ingredient in these sticky amyloid plaques that accumulate in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease", Readhead said. The research team created computer models that mapped the genes that were disrupted or activated during the progression of Alzheimer's.

Two strains of human herpesvirus-human herpesvirus 6A (HHV-6A) and human herpesvirus 7 (HHV-7) -are found in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease at levels up to twice as high as in those without Alzheimer's, researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai report. The viruses remain dormant however within the body.

In the extensive multicenter study that involved sophisticated "big data" genetic analysis, researchers, didn't expect to find a possible role for human herpesvirus 6A (HHV-6A) and human herpesvirus 7 HHV-7), which are known to cause encephalitis and other chronic conditions.

The scientists did not set out to look for a link between viruses and dementia.

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Plaques and tangles are the primary elements responsible for death of the cells and loss of tissue in the brain of a patient suffering from Alzheimer's.

Mount Sinai geneticist Joel Dudley and senior author of the study said that the clues "came screaming out at us".

Nobody really knows what causes Alzheimer's disease. "I think they're like gas on the flames of some pathology that may be immune-driven".

Ben Readhead, MBBS, lead author of the study and assistant research professor at ASU's NDRC, said in an ASU press release, "We were able to use a range of network biology approaches to tease apart how these viruses may be interacting with human genes we know are relevant to Alzheimer's".

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Despite these studies, Lennart Mucke, director of the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease in San Francisco, tells Belluck that, though the Dudley study is impressive, these herpes viruses could be unrelated to Alzheimer's.

They found that the virus genes were "talking" to genes in the brain associated with increasing one's risk of Alzheimer's. The researchers were more dedicated to tracking the chemicals of the six brain regions of Alzheimer's patients. Researchers have been down this road before.

A new study says a common virus might play a role in who develops Alzheimers.

Whatever the case, the new studies make the once-controversial idea that a virus is involved in Alzheimer's another reasonable avenue of study. Of course, it causes certain disorders in the immune system, which, in turn, can be a predisposing factoroids the development of other allergic and immune diseases.

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More than a century after Alzheimer's discovery, there is still no effective prevention or cure for the disease, not even clear justification.

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