A study published this week has loaded more evidence onto the barrow of the debate that Alzheimers could be a transmissible disease, a terrifying concept for all of us. Published this week in Swiss Medical Weekly, the study looked at 30 post-mortem brains to seek further support for the theory that was proposed in September 2015 by scientists and shows some signs worthy of further studies that transplant of cells could cause transmission of the horrifying degenerative disease.
The researchers looked at the brains of seven patients who had died of a rare degenerative brain disorder, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in which some Alzheimer-type pathology was reported.
Decades before their deaths, the patients all received grafts of dura mater, a thick membrane that protects the spinal cord, taken from cadavers in order to treat a severe head injury or to repair the covering after surgery. The prions causing the disease, it seems, were brought with the transplant, which likely caused CJD to develop over time.
In five of the brains, the researchers saw evidence of Alzheimer’s disease as well—plaque-like buildups of a protein composite called beta amyloid slow the brain’s function, one of the defining characteristics of the condition. The patients had died between the ages of 28 and 63, generally too young to develop so much plaque buildup said medical reports.
When the researchers compared these brains to those from patients that had died of CJD but hadn’t received the dura transplants, they found that the non-transplant patients didn’t have the beta amyloid plaques. Those findings indicate to the researchers that the seeds for the beta amyloid might have come with the graft, along with the prions that caused CJD in the first place, which might have caused Alzheimer’s to develop.
These findings are in line with a similar study published in Nature in September.
The researchers emphasised in their study that the prions and plaques aren’t infectious, so CJD and Alzheimer’s couldn’t be transmitted under normal conditions. But the concern is that this evidence shows that Alzheimer’s can be transmitted through transplants. Though both studies have small sample sizes, the researchers believe these findings could help scientists better understand the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s, which could someday lead to improved treatments for the disease.
Is there history of Alzheimers in your family? Do you worry about it?