Can Alzheimer’s disease be prevented?

New Scientific Hypothesis Brings Hope of Killing Alzheimer’s

More than five million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s, a devastating neurological disease that robs patients of their memory and cognitive functioning. Finding a prevention tool has been on the wish list of scientists and treatment providers for decades.

Brain-Infecting Microbes: Old Theory Gets a New Lease of Life

Can Alzheimer’s disease be prevented?

A soon to be published editorial in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease will re-open an old conversation as to the cause of Alzheimer’s. According to the editorial, signed by 31 scientists from around the world, the cause of the disease may be microbial infections in the brain, such as Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1), Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease, or Chlamydophila pneumoniae, which causes pneumonia. The experts’ theory is that when the APOE є4 gene variant, which is known to be an Alzheimer’s disease risk factor, is present — a microbial infection can cause debilitating damage to the brain. This theory, dismissed once before, is getting a new look, and if researchers are able to prove it, which will not be easy, then perhaps in the future there will be a way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Microbial Infections Vs. Amyloid Proteins and Tau Tangles

To date, researchers have been focusing on amyloid proteins and tau tangles, which have been proven to be causative agents in the brain cell death experienced by Alzheimer’s patients. While not dismissing the role of these factors, the aforementioned theory that has resurfaced, labeled ‘the pathogen hypothesis’, says that microbial infections are causing the tau tangles and buildup of amyloid proteins, resulting in the ensuing cell death. According to Dr. Brian Balin, Director of the Center for Chronic Disorders of Aging at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and co-author of the editorial in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, amyloid proteins play a part in the disease, but only in response to the initial inflammation caused by the microbial infection that is attacking the brain.

Senior Woman Memory Loss

Earlier Examinations of the Pathogen Theory Were Not Conclusive

The pathogen theory is not new. In 1979, a study was published in The Lancet, which reported that scientists at the University of Manchester examined patients carrying APOE є4 whose brains were infected with HSV-1. They found that the prevalence of Alzheimer’s was 12 times higher than when only the gene was present or when there was an infection. A 2010 study at Harvard University, headed by Dr. Rudolph Tanzi, Director of Massachusetts Hospital’s Genetics and Aging Research Center, found that amyloid protein seems to accumulate in response to infection. In research conducted since 2010, Dr. Tanzi has found that amyloid protein increases as a defense mechanism to protect the brain from the infection. One of the points of opposition, though, is that HSV-1 can also be found in the brains of healthy older people.

There Are Major Ramifications If the Theory Can Be Proven

If conclusive evidence can be found that microbial infections are a causative agent in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, it would dramatically alter the way we approach the disease. Instead of dealing with the consequences, patients could be given a vaccine against the infections.

How to Prove the Theory?

The major stumbling block to proving the theory is that it is not possible to determine if infections such as HSV-1 are present in the brain as long as the patient is still living. Only upon death and autopsy can the brain be examined for these microbial infections. It will require many more years of clinical trials to determine if the pathogen theory is valid. Nevertheless, researchers such as Dr. Balin and others believe it is more than worth it to continue with the research. They hope the upcoming editorial will give credence to their approach and also free up much needed funding.

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33 responses to “Can Alzheimer’s disease be prevented?

  1. Fred Manfrinjinson

    Interesting article about how Alzheimers comes about and what we can do. Amazing to think that it is possible that prevention may be an available method. Prevention is always better than treating the disease once it’s taken hold!

  2. My grandmother died of dementia so I understand the desire and need to prevent and possibly cure Alzheimer’s. I believe that it is possible to prevent this horrible disease, but at the same time some drugs in the man time may help to slow the effects, but are we just slowing the inevitable? A cure is needed and a prevention is needed in my opinion..

  3. Great article – HOPE!!!! Have been eagerly awaiting this next installment, all of these articles together have greatly expanded my knowledge and understanding of this horrid disease.

  4. Wow, i wish I knew this earlier about dementia. Maybe I would have been able to see the signs..

  5. Very informative post. I do hope this theory has some truth to it so we can stop this killer, once and for all.

  6. They can’t figure out a procedure to pull a biopsy on a living person? I know it seems complicated by it sounds like something worth getting done.

  7. They can’t come up with a way to do a biopsy on a living person? I know it would be difficult but it seems like it would be worth it.

  8. Wow! An eye opener for sure. I hope very soon they will be able to conclusively say what causes Alzheimer’s and set about getting a cure or vaccine for this very debilitating condition.

  9. It’s good that the doctors are able to find possible new causes to Alzheimer’s. If they do enough research they might be able to find a cure. I hope that they can get rid of this disease that robs patients of their memory. If patients could be given a vaccine against the infections that cause the disease that would be wonderful.

  10. Really hope to find a cure / prevention for this horrible disease – it’s such a sad one – how wonderful it will be if we can eradicate it!

  11. While the tangles and plaque are obviously a huge cause of damage, it’s still not settled what triggers them in the first place. Interesting theory, we really need more and more donations of brains to science so we can build a data set.

  12. I hope that it is possible to prevent this horrible disease.it’s such a sad one .if patients could be given a vaccine against the infections that cause the disease that would be great..

  13. timothy stallman

    My grandmother died of dementia so I understand the desire and need to prevent and possibly cure Alzheimer’s. I believe that it is possible to prevent this horrible disease, but at the same time some drugs in the man time may help to slow the effects, but are we just slowing the inevitable? A cure is needed and a prevention is needed in my opinion..

  14. This article gives hope to a possible vaccine that can protect the brain against pathogens that cause deterioration and give wake to Alzheimer’s disease. If the theory is proven true, it would put an end to Alzheimer’s, as we know it.

  15. I like how info was give on theory and then on how to prove it. Very well written.

  16. I like how info was give on theory and then on how to prove it. Very well written.

  17. Wow this is great news! At least there will be an aid to those people that’s experiencing Alzheimer’s. As for me, I have a sign of it already and this will give me hopes when I’ll reach the point of really having it.

  18. Promising theory; we all hope it holds up. But there remains a compelling finding about smoking and the incidence of Alzheimer’s (and Parkinson’s) – – smokers are 50% less likely to be afflicted: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10942038

    One or more molecules in tobacco cut off the enabling mechanism.

  19. Having a family member who has early signs of Alcheimer’s disease, this article is really important to me. It has good information and new ideas that makes me hopeful that scientists are on the right path to finding a prevention to this disease – and eventually, a cure to those who already have it. Well written and good use of images.

  20. Let’s hope they can find a cure or at least a way to better prevent Alzheimer’s. My grandmother had this disease, and it isn’t pretty.

  21. Connie Mastroianni

    There has to be a cure in the future to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease, it is sad of what it does to the elderly. I hope they can find a cure in the future and save lives.

  22. This is a great article! Very informative! Alzheimer’s is a horrible diesease that affects so many people and families. We need to find a cure. The more people inform themselves on the illness the better chance we have at finding a cure. Knowledge is power !!

  23. kevin peterson

    Alzheimer’s disease is a very bad disease but i think the treatment will be finded near future and the blog should continuasly work for circulating the ways of treatment of disease found in near future.

  24. Scott Willis

    Had no idea that microbes and similar things could be causing Alzheimers. Hopefully this will lead to a cure.

  25. crimsontide1

    Alzheimer’s has taken a toll on my family and so many others. This gives them hope in a world where things go downhill very fast. However, I hope this, like stem cell research, is not hyped up beyond what the capabilities are in reality.

  26. Great article! It’s great to know that Alzheimer’s may be curable in the future seeing how many people it effects.

  27. I really hope there will someday be a effective treatment and/or prevention. Nothing terrifies me like Alzheimer’s does.

  28. I hope they find a cure soon my grandmother actually has this :/

  29. I think that if more research is done, there will be major breakthroughs.
    However, the best defense is to lead a healthy life.

  30. sasha gaylord

    This article is very informative giving you a lot of much needed facts about this horrible disease maybe in time they will find a cure their qrw a lot of smart people in thia world and in some ways I believe cures to most sicknesses are known but higher people will not let them get released due to controlling population but that’s just my theory

  31. It is interesting to see that research presses forward to help find a way to prevent this terrible disease that robs so many of their loved ones way too early! The theory seems very logical that it could be a microbial infection and hopefully science will find a way to test this theory on living subjects and develop a vaccine soon.

  32. Die hier aufgeführten Listen und Portale finden viele Wikipedianer informativ. Sie erfüllen bestimmte Qualitätsstandards, wodurch sie aus der Vielzahl von Listen

  33. I really hope this is true. Both my grandparents had this disease! it is terrible

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