The First-Ever Cases of Transmitted Alzheimer's Disease

Scientists have found evidence that some people have developed Alzheimer's that they got from other people. This does not mean that Alzheimer's is communicable, and in fact the method of transmission that was discovered will never happen again.

A handful of patients were identified as having Alzheimer's, despite being in their 30s, 40, and 50s, and despite not having any genetic markers for the disease. What they did have in common is that they all underwent treatment with Human Growth Hormone in their childhoods. The HGH was taken from the brains of human cadavers. This method is no longer used, and growth hormones are now synthetic. The cadaver method was discontinued when some recipients contracted cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a fatal condition caused by prions, which are misfolded proteins that cause disease and can propagate.

The discovery opens up the possibility that the beta-amyloid proteins that signal the onset of Alzheimer's might also be a sort of prion. This kind of transmission of Alzheimer's is not possible outside of this medical procedure that is no longer used, so no one should be afraid of caring for an Alzheimer's patient. But the discovery opens up a whole new pathway for Alzheimer's research, which is explained in more detail at STAT. -via Damn Interesting 

(Image credit: National Institute on Aging, NIH

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