Gum infection could be linked to Alzheimer’s, study says

Jan 27, 2019, 01:33
Gum infection could be linked to Alzheimer’s, study says

Researchers at Shiley-Marcos Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, part of the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, found that autopsies of patients diagnosed with AD when they were alive-and confirmed by autopsy-indicate several cognitive issues symptomatic of the condition are less noticeable in living Latino patients.

In a new paper led by senior author Jan Potempa, a microbiologist from the University of Louisville, researchers report the discovery of Porphyromonas gingivalis - the pathogen behind chronic periodontitis (aka gum disease) - in the brains of deceased Alzheimer's patients.

A treatment using the compound, called COR388, recently passed human safety studies in Alzheimer's disease patients and healthy adults and will move into the next step of clinical trials this year, Lynch said.

Bacteria involved in gum disease and other illnesses have been found after death in the brains of people who had Alzheimer's, but until now, it hasn't been clear whether these bacteria caused the disease or simply got in via brain damage caused by the condition.

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.

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Disrupted sleep was also found to increase release of synuclein proteins which are a hallmark of Parkinson's disease; people with this disease also often have sleep problems.

'In research we've supported to uncover the key risk factors for Alzheimer's disease, gum disease hasn't emerged as a major cause for concern, ' Dr James Pickett, head of research at Alzheimer's Society, said.

Alzheimer's disease is infamous for its devastating impact on memory, bringing significant mental and emotional stress to patients and their families.

The study included research of both mice and humans.

The study authors say these results, plus additional testing in mice, provide "solid evidence" of a link between the two diseases and may offer a potential new way to treat Alzheimer's. They also studied the enzyme's effects in the brains of mice, and found that it caused the animals to develop signs of Alzheimer's.

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"We have provided evidence showing that abnormal epigenetic regulation of glutamate receptor expression and function did contribute to cognitive decline in Alzheimer's disease", Yan concluded.

There is now no test doctors can use to conclusively determine whether someone will get Alzheimer's disease and there are a lot of unknowns about its cause.

In the paper, an global team of researchers led by Cortexyme co-founders Stephen Dominy, M.D. and Casey Lynch detail the role of a common bacterium, Porphyromonas gingivalis (Pg), in driving Alzheimer's disease pathology and demonstrate the potential for small molecule inhibitors to block the pathogen.

They also showed that when genetically modified mice who were predisposed to Alzheimer's were infected with P. gingivalis, the bacterium ended up in their brain and that this was associated with increased levels of amyloid protein. They hope to conduct a Phase 2 trial to further test out their drug soon.

People with Lewy body dementia and Huntington's disease tend to have high levels of the protein in the blood. The Alzheimer's Association has a campaign called "10 Ways to Love Your Brain" to help people lower their risk.

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Of the many changes in the brain which precede the disease's symptoms, one change is also the accumulation of NfL in the blood before any symptoms begin, said Jucker. Co-founder Stephen Dominy is a psychiatrist who in the 1990s became intrigued by the idea that Alzheimer's could have an infectious cause.

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