Alzheimer’s disease, is a neurodegenerative disease that affects millions of people. It has a late age of onset since it is cause by the slow accumulation of Amyloid beta. This protein when accumulated in the brain forms plaques that eventually cause neurons to die and the brain to deteriorate.
Studies have focused on Alzheimer’s to find why and how it is caused. Some consider it a disease caused by ageing. As we age, damage in our cells causes changes that eventually lead to neurodegenerative diseases. The problem with alzheimer’s, is that amyloid beta should be produced in that way and mutations in the APP gene shouldn’t be that common. There are many explanations on why and how this happens, but this new study (linked at the end) suggests that it is caused by viral infections and that it may even be a natural response to defend those infections.
In several patients brains, researchers found that there are increased human herpesvirus 6A (HHV-6A) and herpesvirus 7 (HHV-7) compared with controls. Since increased viral DNA was found in patients compared to controls, there may indeed be a connection there. It may show that the viral DNA causes alterations in gene expression or even mutations in certain sequences thus ultimately causing alzheimer’s disease.
There may be more studies required to support the theory that amyloid beta is a response to viral infection but it is a possibility too and the evidence from this study show potential. The techniques used in this study should be producing reliable results. Although as with any study, we can see the results but the conclusion may be different than the one we see. Just because there is an association, it doesn’t mean there is a causation.
Further studies focusing on the effects of viruses like herpes virus on human neurons will help us understand the effect of such viral infection to humans. Finally, as i mentioned above and as the authors mention in their conclusion, more studies are required to reach a definite answer to whether alzheimer’s disease is caused by viral infections and if so how this mechanism works, but the evidence from this study suggest that this may be true.
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Image: By Hikmet Gümüş [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Human_Brain_Dissected.jpg