Scientists Pinpoint Gum Disease Pathogen As Possible Cause Of Alzheimer's
Lack of sleep alone is indicated in the findings to help drive the disease, and suggests good sleep habits may help to preserve brain health.
"Our plan, the state plan for Alzheimer's disease and related dementias in Maine, is the driving force behind all our state policy efforts", said Adam Lacher, Director of Advocacy at the Maine Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association. Recent research has suggested amyloid-beta - one of the proteins that forms aggregates in the brains of Alzheimer's patients - is an antimicrobial peptide formed in response to bacterial infections in the brain, and P. gingivalis specifically has been found in the brains of people with Alzheimer's.
The Washington post published a report about the study by researchers at the University of Louisville (USA), during which they had identified bacteria that can cause Alzheimer's disease. Some studies suggest that the prevalence of dementia might be higher among Hispanics than non-Hispanic whites.
Tau is a protein normally found in the brain, even in healthy people, but it starts to cause problems when it clumps together in tangles.
"NfL levels rise whenever the brain is damaged, and as Alzheimer's disease affects 30% of people over the age of 80, we hope that NfL will become part of a GP's standard battery, like annual cholesterol testing".
Researchers sampled brain and spinal cord fluid from eight people after a normal night of sleep and again after a night when they were kept awake for the entire night. However, looking at the presence of bacteria in human brain tissue doesn't tell us anything about whether this may have a role in causing the disease.
Giving the mice a drug that binds gingipains cleared P. gingivalis from the brain better than a common antibiotic, and it reduced the β-amyloid production and resulting neurodegeneration.
"We have not only identified the epigenetic factors that contribute to the memory loss, but we also found ways to temporarily reverse them in an animal model of Alzheimer's", said Zhen Yan, Professor at University at Buffalo in the US.
Tests on the animals confirmed that gingipain enzymes destroyed brain neurons.
New Scientist said a number of teams had been investigating Porphyromonas gingivalis, the bacteria behind chronic gum disease, and found that it attacks and inflames brain regions affected by Alzheimer's.
Infecting tau-expressing cell cultures with P. gingivalis led to breakdown of the tau protein, apparently through the actions of those gingipain proteases. Chief executive Casey Lynch said: 'This study is an important breakthrough in understanding how Alzheimer's disease can be triggered and a new path to treatment'. "High levels could be a sign of many different neurological diseases and injuries".
Potempa added that "more research needs to be done" to show causation, rather than simply correlation, between gum disease and Alzheimer's.
"The evidence we found is important to moving forward because early identification of Alzheimer's disease can allow for earlier implementation of treatments and interventions that prolong the life and well-being of patients and their caregivers", said first author Gali Weissberger, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher at USC Keck School of Medicine.