A new study on Alzheimer’s is rocking the medical world. Initial evidence suggests the deadly brain disease may be transmissible.
One of the study’s researchers, Claudio Soto, who is a professor of neurology at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston is quoted by MSNBC as saying, “Our findings open the possibility that some of the sporadic Alzheimer’s cases may arise from an infectious process.”
The evidence for that came from analysis of mice brains that had been injected with human brain tissue from Alzheimer’s patients. A control group of mice injected with healthy human brain tissue revealed no trace of the disease. The study [“De novo induction of amyloid-β deposition in vivo”] appears in the October 4, 2011 issue of the journal Molecular Psychiatry.
“The underlying mechanism of Alzheimer’s disease is very similar to the prion diseases,” Soto explained. “It involves a normal protein that becomes misshapen, and is able to spread by transforming good proteins to bad ones. The bad proteins accumulate in the brain, forming plaque deposits that are believed to kill neuron cells.”
A terribly debilitating disease, Alazheimer’s has been responsible for the death of millions including President Ronald Reagan and actor Charlton Heston. The disease is the most common type of dementia and strikes across all ethnic groups globally.
Despite intense research in recent decades, there remains no cure. Contraction of the disease always results in eventual death.
In 1906 German psychiatrist and neuropathologist Alois Alzheimer [Photo] described the characteristics of the illness . He’s considered the discoverer and, therefore, the deadly malady has been named after him.
Seven stages of Alzheimer’s have been identified in the mental capabilities of those afflicted with the disease:
Stage 1. No impairment is noticeable
Stage 2. A very slight decline becomes noticeable
Stage 3. A mild decline is noticeable
Stage 4. Disease progresses to a moderate decline
Stage 5. A moderately severe decline occurs
Stage 6. Severe decline takes place
Stage 7. Very severe decline in cognitive and motor abilities leading to death
According to the World Health organization, as of 2006 (the last year accurate statistics are available) 26.6 million people had various stages of the disease. That number is expected to accelerate as diagnosis continues to improve.
Neurologists project as many as one in 85 people will be suffering from Alzheimer’s by 2050.
For more information
Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center
Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Harvard Medical School
John Hopkins Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center
Massachusetts Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center