Childhood virus HHV linked with Alzheimer's decades later

Childhood virus HHV linked with Alzheimer's decades later

"However many scientists, including myself, have been concerned by the failures of recent large trials of drugs that have been developed to remove amyloid from the brain, and we have therefore focused on alternative thinking". "We don't know yet whether they're integrated or whether they're separate, but certainly there's a fairly robust association of these genomes in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's".

The study, headed by a team at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, found increased levels of the two Roseoloviruses, human herpesvirus 6A (HHV-6A) and human herpesvirus 7 (HHV7), interacting with gene networks in areas of the brain that are known to be affected in AD.

The research team had been mapping and comparing the biological networks that underlie Alzheimer's disease, based on detailed genetic analyses of more than 600 brain tissue samples. When they later bred mice deficient in this microRNA, they found that the rodents developed larger and more abundant amyloid plaques in their brains than did mice with normal microRNA levels.

"All these Alzheimer's brains in these separate, major brain banks have previously unsuspected substantial populations of herpesvirus genomes and that deserves an explanation wherever it falls in the pathogenesis". "This research reinforces the complexity of Alzheimer's disease, creates opportunities to explore Alzheimer's more thoroughly, and highlights the importance of sharing data freely and widely with the research community".

Keith Fargo, the Alzheimer's Association's director of scientific programs and outreach, said that more research will need to be done to prove that there is a connection between herpes viruses and Alzheimer's. It was also a chance for others in the community to donate and become part of the cause to help find a cure for Alzheimer's. Instead, what ultimately stood out to them were not any particular human genes but in fact an abundance of genes related to two particular strains of herpes virus.

The idea that infections earlier in life might somehow set the stage for Alzheimer's decades later has simmered at the edge of mainstream medicine for years.

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HAMILTON: But he says the evidence is good enough to merit a study looking at whether antiviral drugs can delay or prevent Alzheimer's.

"This study illustrates the promise of leveraging human brain samples, emerging big data analysis methods, converging findings from experimental models, and intensely collaborative approaches in the scientific understanding of AD and the discovery of new treatments", adds study co-author Eric Reiman, M.D., executive director of the Banner Alzheimer's Institute and University Professor of Neuroscience at Arizona State University. Rather, the research gives scientists reason to revisit the old pathogen hypothesis and will be the basis for further work that will test whether herpes virus activity is one of the causes of Alzheimer's.

HAMILTON: And Dudley says what they found was really intriguing.

Grants include: AG046139, EB020406, AG016574, AG032990, AG046139, AG018023, AG006576, AG006786, AG025711, AG017216, AG003949, NS080820, NS072026, AG19610, AG10161, AG15819, AG17917, AG30146, AG36836, AG32984 and AG46152. The researchers initially set out to comprehensively examine DNA, RNA and protein footprints in the brains of deceased Alzheimer's patients with the goal of identifying certain overactive genes in Alzheimer's sufferers that could help direct future drug research. Science is an unpredictable and incremental process-each research advance builds on past discoveries, often in unexpected ways. The initial aim of the study was to uncover disease mechanisms and potentially identify targets for new drugs, or for repurposing existing drugs.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Readhead is an assistant research professor in the NDRC, housed at ASU's Biodesign Institute. It provides information on age-related cognitive change and neurodegenerative disease, including participation in clinical studies, specifically on its Alzheimer's website.

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