Childhood Virus May Have a Role in Alzheimer's Disease
Childhood Virus May Have a Role in Alzheimer's Disease
These Slices of Human Brains Revealed an Alzheimer's Clue
26 June, 2018, 16:45
Maggie Fox at NBC reports that researchers then looked at DNA and RNA sequences collected from 622 brains afflicted with Alzheimer's and 322 disease-free brains, finding that two herpes viruses, HHV-6A and HHV-7, were more common in the brains of people who died of Alzheimer's. In past years, several studies have found a link between strains of the herpes who have migrated to the brain and development of Alzheimer's disease.
The team found that brains affected by Alzheimer's had a higher level of viral genetic material, a lot of them being human herpes viruses, known as HHV6a and HHV7. However, scientists are divided on whether viruses are likely to be an active trigger, or whether the brains of people already on the path towards Alzheimer's are simply more vulnerable to infection.
In the extensive multicenter study that involved sophisticated "big data" genetic analysis, researchers, didn't expect to find a possible role for human herpesvirus 6A (HHV-6A) and human herpesvirus 7 HHV-7), which are known to cause encephalitis and other chronic conditions.
It has always been a controversial theory about Alzheimer's disease, often dismissed by experts as a sketchy cul-de-sac off the beaten path from mainstream research.
Herpes virus causes contagious sores, most often around the mouth or on the genitals.
"We mapped out the social network, if you will, of which genes the viruses are friends with and who they're talking to inside the brain", Dudley toldNPR, offering an analogy: "If the viruses are tweeting, who's tweeting back?"
Dudley said this kind of research has always been controversial in the community.
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"What we found in particular to Alzheimer's disease was an increased abundance of two particular herpes viruses: HHV6a and HHV7, which haven't previously been linked to Alzheimer's disease".
However, Joel Dudley, from the Icahn School of Medicine in NYC and the lead author of the city said that just having the two herpes viruses in the brain is not enough to cause the Alzheimer's disease.
Exploring the significance of viruses in the brain is still at its early stages, and a key question is whether pathogens play an active role in causing disease or are opportunistic, taking advantage of neural deterioration.
The findings also showed multiple points of overlap between virus-host interactions and genes associated with Alzheimer's risk.
Recall that a virus the herpes infected nearly everything.
Ben Readhead, the study's lead author said that the goal of the study was to find ways to understand the disease and treat it better. The data they mined is usually discarded, but was archived instead by the National Institutes of Health in a bid to accelerate the discovery of new treatments by fostering "big data" collaborations.
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