Alzheimer’s disease can be transmissible (by a prion-like mechanism)

ADCreutzfeldt–Jakob disease (CJD) is a deadly prion disease; a prion is a protein that has an abnormal shape (which is very bad, toxic) and has the capacity of infecting other proteins so that the normal proteins became prions themselves. Between 1958 and 1985, several tens of thousands people – mostly children – received growth hormone injections for growth deficiencies. This drug has been developed from the pituitary glands of dead humans. All the glands have been pooled together, homogenized, and then the hormone extracted, so if there was only one infected with the CJD all of them became infected. After a long and variable period of incubation (5 to 40 years), a few hundred of the injection recipients died of CJD.

Jaunmuktane et. al (2015) found that the brains of four of these people that died of CJD also had amyloid-β pathology, which is a sign of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), a type of dementia. These people were unusually young to develop AD, between 36-51 years old. In almost all cases we know of early-onset AD, beside amyloid deposits, the patients also have some particular genetic mutations, e.g. APOE ε4 alleles. The people from the Jaunmuktane study did not have any genetic mutations, therefore, the amyloid deposits were a direct result of the contaminated injections given as children. Which means that some of those injections were having not only CJD prions, but also Alzheimer’s seed.

Reference: Jaunmuktane, Z., Mead, S. Ellis, M., Wadsworth, J. D. F., Nicoll, A. J., Kenny, J., Launchbury, F., Linehan, J., Richard-Loendt, A., Walker, A. S., Rudge, P., Collinge, J. & Brandner, S. (10 September 2015). Evidence for human transmission of amyloid-β pathology and cerebral amyloid angiopathy. Nature, 525: 247–250, DOI:doi:10.1038/nature15369. Article | FREE PDF | Nature cover | BBC cover

By Neuronicus, 21 September 2015

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