Day of advocacy held at the Capitol for Alzheimer's and dementia

Credit Wikimedia Commons

Credit Wikimedia Commons

"There have been very few autopsy studies in Hispanic elderly with Alzheimer's disease that have allowed researchers to gain insight about factors that might make it more hard to clinically diagnose the disease in this demographic", said senior author David P. Salmon, PhD, professor in the Department of Neurosciences and Helen A. Jarrett Chair in Alzheimer's Research at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

New research has suggested that Alzheimer's might be linked to gum disease - after a gum disease bacteria, Porphyromonas gingivalis, was found in the brains of dead patients.

Lynch further added that while previous studies have established a link between periodontal disease and Alzheimer's, the new research observes a highly significant link between Alzheimer's and the oral infection and that the mouse study indicates causation.

However, he said the study was limited because the team has not yet determined if different strains of P. gingivalis are more virulent than others in causing brain infection.

The team also infected mice with gum disease, finding that the rodents acquired brain infection, along with tau and amyloid build up in regions normally affected by Alzheimer's.

Researchers from the institute conducted the study in collaboration with neurologists from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the Huntington Medical Research Institutes in Pasadena.

The researchers say: "The findings of this study offer evidence that P. gingivalis and gingipains in the brain play a central role in the [disease development] of [Alzheimer's disease]".

"NfL levels rise whenever the brain is damaged, and as Alzheimer's disease affects 30% of people over the age of 80, we hope that NfL will become part of a GP's standard battery, like annual cholesterol testing".

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. Clinical trials on Alzheimer's patients will be carried out this year.

But a U.S. study has proved for the first time that the bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis, a major cause of gum disease, can move from the mouth to the brain in mice, which suffered damage to cells in the hippocampus - the brain region important for memory.

The report quoted Sim Singhrao of the University of Central Lancashire in the United Kingdom as saying: "This is the first report showing P. gingivalis DNA in human brains, and the associated gingipains, co-localising with plaques".

There was also caution about the fact the drug tests had been in mice.

People with Lewy body dementia and Huntington's disease tend to have high levels of the protein in the blood.

Researchers injected the hippocampi of mice with clumps of tau and then kept the mice awake for long periods of times.

Alzheimer's is caused from both genetic and environmental risk factors, such as ageing, which combine to result in epigenetic changes, leading to gene expression changes, but little is known about how that occurs. "It really will be important to see how this plays out in human randomized controlled trials, which is the gold standard for understanding whether a therapeutic targeting something like the P. gingivalis mechanism would actually be effective", she said. Too much of this protective response to pathogens could trigger the buildup of the disease's signature amyloid plaques, they suggest.

"Everyone's life can be improved by regular appointments and good oral hygiene, reducing the bacterial load that's ever present in our mouths to a level that's unlikely to cause tooth decay, gum disease or tooth loss".

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