One of the biggest stories currently in health news is the discovery of a possible link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s. The study published in Sciences Advances reports that a type of bacteria associated with gum disease, Porphyromonas gingivalis, is found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Is this coincidence, or does gum disease cause Alzheimer’s disease?
What Is New(s) In Our Search For The Cure?
One of the biggest stories currently in health news is the discovery of a possible link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s. The study published in Sciences Advances reports that a type of bacteria associated with gum disease, Porphyromonas gingivalis, is found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.
A team of researchers led by Vladimir Ilievski at the University of Illinois at Chicago have reported a close association between periodontitis and cognitive impairment, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
Does Gum Disease Cause Alzheimer’s?
This is not the first time we have reported a relationship between infection and AD (see, for example, IS ALZHEIMER’S AN AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE? And HOPE ON THE HORIZON — JUNE 26, 2018). On the other hand, this study makes a much stronger case for causation than did previous reports associating infectious agents.
The current study also demonstrates in mice how infection moves from the mouth to the brain. Perhaps most significantly, the authors’ hypothesize that neural damage results when the P. gingivalis viruses secrete gingipains, an enzyme which causes neural damage. Inhibition of the gingipains might result in a way to treat AD.
A related study reported in ScienceDaily found a potential association between bacteria and microbes in the intestines (gut microbiota). Comparing the microbiota between 128 dementia and non-dementia patients found that beneficial Bacteroides were lower in those with dementia.
This is exciting in that it gives science a new direction in which to proceed. Plaques and tangles are always present in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s, but there is substantial evidence that the evolutionary role of ß-amyloid is to protect the brain against infection. The sticky plaques associated with AD is the result of this mechanism gone wrong.
This would reinforce the hypothesis that the amyloid plaques and fibrillary tangles of Alzheimer’s are symptoms of the disease rather than the cause.
— READ MORE» ALZHEIMER’S AS AN AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE —
The Road to a Cure for Alzheimer’s
Will this possible connection between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease lead to a cure? Perhaps. But it may not. It is significant that scientists are becoming increasingly open to investigate possible causes beyond the amyloid hypothesis.
A New Direction for Alzheimer’s Research
If you follow this Hope on the Horizon blog you know I am a bit cynical about the amount of money Big Pharma is throwing at “plaque busting” drugs. Hundreds of trials have failed in the last couple of decades, and yet the drug companies persist. Another one failed recently; reported in New Atlas, the drug crenezumab by pharmaceutical company Roche, is the latest in a long line of “plaque busting” drugs to be assigned to the scrap heap.
Maybe one day they will get it right, but my confidence continues to fade with each failed clinical trial.
Don’t take that to mean that I have given up hope for a cure. I think those, like this team at the University of Illinois, who are applying their efforts (and funds) in other directions are moving us closer to real cure.
Autophagy is the process by which cells rid themselves of and recycle waste products. Macrophages are the cellular structures that through the process of autophagy, keep the body free of waste products and foreign invaders, like bacteria. Macrophages evolved, in part, to fight inflammation.
Microglia are similar to macrophages in that, when operating properly, they clean the brain and nervous system of waste, including amyloid plaques and fibrillary tangles, the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.
Inflammation generally incites macrophages to work harder, but autophagy in microglia is actually suppressed in the face of inflammation. Inflammation is a characteristic of the Alzheimer’s brain, and this suppression of autophagy accelerates Alzheimer’s progression.
Inactive or ineffective microglia can be considered to be another hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
A team of South Korean scientists may have discovered the mechanism by which the function of microglia is impeded. The researchers believe their finding might lead to “a unique mechanism for the regulation of microglial autophagy and point to … a potential therapeutic target to regulate microglial function in brain disorders.”
An abstract of the article can be found here.
One of our recent posts provides a more in-depth account of microglia and their role in brain functioning. We also provide information on how microglia made ineffective by Alzheimer’s disease is being reinvigorated to do their job to rid the brain of plaques and tangles. Please respond to this email if you are interested to learn more about this groundbreaking light therapy for Alzheimer’s.
Read more» about microglia and how we might invigorate them to treat Alzheimer’s.
AdventHealth in Orlando will soon take part in a national study that seeks to find out why exercise benefits human body functions. The National Institutes of Health (HIH) has issued a $170 million grant, making The Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity in Humans the largest federally-funded study on exercise.
AdventHealth is nearing the point of recruiting volunteers. Anyone in the Orlando area who might be interested should call 407-303-7100.
The Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project has been following the health and lifestyle habits of hundreds of thousands of Canadians. 10,000 volunteers are currently being sought in Manitoba.
“The survey will look at how factors like genetics, environment, career, social circumstances and individual choice play a role in chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.”
Anyone interested in taking part can get more information the Manitoba Tomorrow Project website..
University of Rochester
We know that high blood pressure is one of the modifiable risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. This study is looking for the reason behind this link.
Healthline/Medical News Today
We know that exercise improves strength and balance, thereby decreasing fall rates in elderly people. Did you know that exercise is another of the modifiable risk factors for dementia? This study, done at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, found that even a little exercise is beneficial. The overall conclusion of the researchers was that “more daily movement is linked to better memory and thinking abilities. Higher levels of motor skills were also linked with better abilities in these areas.”
So, get moving…
The Daily Texan
This study done at the University of Texas concentrated on obstructive sleep apnea. The research team found a high correlation between this sleep disorder and Alzheimer’s disease. This condition is very treatable, and should be on everyone’s list of “Ways to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease”.
The headline story of this post is perhaps more exciting than it might at first seem. To find an infectious agent to be the cause of Alzheimer’s could be a big leap toward a cure. And the potential of reinvigorating the brains microglia to clear the brain of Alzheimer’s plaques and tangles suggests an effective treatment. Overall, I am encouraged by recent medical advances.
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- “Needless to say, her need for sedatives has stopped.” Carla