Health Care

Gum disease bug could play key role in Alzheimer's, research suggests

Gum disease bug could play key role in Alzheimer's, research suggests”

"Infectious agents have been implicated in the development and progression of Alzheimer's disease before, but the evidence of causation hasn't been convincing", said Stephen Dominy, M.D., Cortexyme co-founder and lead author on the paper.

There is still no effective treatment for Alzheimer's, but Jucker thinks the new blood test will be "very important for clinical studies".

Scientists at the company Cortexyme, working with academics from around the world, say the findings of their study could lead to new treatment options for Alzheimer's disease sufferers that work by targeting the bacterium Porphyromonas gingivalis, and they have developed a candidate drug that is now undergoing clinical trials.

The bacteria also boosted production of amyloid beta, a component of brain plaques associated with Alzheimer's, BBC News reported.

Tests on the animals confirmed that gingipain enzymes destroyed brain neurons. In a lab dish, the gingipains-whose job is to chop up proteins-damaged tau, a regularly occurring brain protein that forms tangles in people with Alzheimer's. Instead, they developed a small molecule that inhibits the gingipains themselves, which they showed could reduce neurodegeneration in mice injected with these enzymes.

Cortexyme's study looked at brain tissue from Alzheimer's patients and found that more than 90% of samples contained gingipains, the harmful enzymes secreted by P. gingivalis, with levels significantly higher in sufferers' brains than healthy ones.

Alzheimer's Society highlights the difficulty of accessing NHS Continuing Healthcare (NHS CHC) for people with dementia.

The bacteria assaults the brain cells with a hostile protein while also promoting the formation of plagues in brain tissue that are found in Alzheimer's patients.

A new approach to Alzheimer's disease has been developed that could one day make it possible to reverse the devastating memory loss seen in its later stages.

Does gum disease play a key role in the development of Alzheimer's?

"The idea that bacteria and viruses may play a part in brain disease like Alzheimer's is not necessarily new", Rebecca Edelmayer, Ph.D., director of scientific engagement for the Alzheimer's Association, told CBS News. "More research is needed to really identify a causative role for microbes".

It's possible that news of the possible link will lead to people spending more time on their dental health than they now do, though: One study found less than one third of Americans floss daily.

Edelmayer also cautions not to put too much weight on drugs tested in mice.

Yan believes epigenetic drugs may be able to help reverse memory loss in those already in the throes of the disease, rather than trying to prevent the onset of the disease.

"They did a lot of different experiments to build the case that gingipains are a drug target in Alzheimer's disease", he says.

Of course, there are many factors that go into someone's individual risk of developing dementia.

Scientists not involved in the research said it added to the evidence of the link between gum disease and dementia, the umbrella term for brain conditions that include Alzheimer's.

"Getting a good night's sleep is something we should all try to do", Holtzman said.

That's important, because while P. gingivalis and the disease have been linked before, it's never been known - to put it simply - whether gum disease causes Alzheimers, or whether dementia leads to poor oral care.

Senior author Dr David Holtzman who is head of the Department of Neurology, said: 'The interesting thing about this study is that it suggests that real-life factors such as sleep might affect how fast the disease spreads through the brain. But she warned that larger clinical trial is needed to see if it will be beneficial to people living with Alzheimer's disease.

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