Herpes virus may play role in Alzheimer's, study says

Herpes virus may play role in Alzheimer’s, study says

NIH-funded study finds new evidence that viruses may play a role in Alzheimer's disease

"The question remained, OK, in the Alzheimer brain what are the microbes that matter, what are the microbes that trigger the plaque?" explained Tanzi, who also had no role in the new research.

In a study published Thursday in the journal Neuron, researchers say they've found strong evidence to suggest that two strains of the human herpes virus - 6A and 7 - may contribute to the disease that robs people of their memory and cognitive functions.

Blue Cross and the Alzheimer's Association hope the purple displays not only bring awareness to the disease, but also remind MI residents of the importance of brain health.

Much of the research described in the new study was performed in the laboratory of Joel Dudley, associate professor of genetics and genomic sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, associate research professor in the NDRC, and senior author of the paper in Neuron.

The nature and significance of viruses and other pathogens in the brain are now hot topics in neuroscience, though the exploration is still in its early stages. "'But what's clear is that they're perturbing networks and participating in networks that directly accelerate the brain towards the Alzheimer's topology".

But the findings mean little - yet - for efforts to find a cure.

Some scientists have long suspected viruses or bacteria somehow set the stage for Alzheimer's. "Whether such findings represent a causal contribution, or reflect opportunistic passengers of neurodegeneration, is also hard to resolve". Each patient had undergone clinical evaluation to follow the course of their disease before death and neuropathological evaluation to evaluate factors, including the degree of amyloid plaque formation.

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Gandy and colleagues looked at data from brains donated by peoples' families after they died.

The researchers used multiple layers of genomic and proteomic data from several NIA-supported brain banks and cohort studies.

The Dudley Laboratory at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai has an institutional partnership with Banner-ASU Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center. To confirm their findings, the researchers incorporated additional brain RNA sequencing data from 3 other cohorts comprising individuals with AD, other neurodegenerative diseases, and healthy controls. One of the big discordancies the study raises is that these two particular herpes viruses are profoundly common in most human beings.

DUDLEY: Actually, a lot of well-known Alzheimer's genes came up as either interacting with the virus genes or being influenced by them. "HHV-6A stood out as a notable", they state, and exhibited a significant overlap between the set of host genes it collectively induced across all tissues and AD-associated genes. Using techniques in bioinformatics, the study integrates high-throughput data into probabilistic networks that are postulated to account for the associations between herpesviruses and the telltale effects of AD. "The title of the talk that I usually give is, 'I Went Looking for Drug Targets, and All I found Were These Lousy Viruses, ' " he said. The hypothesis was that they could be what are known as "slow virus diseases", where viral infections result in progressive destruction of neurological processes, potentially decades after an acute infection.

"This analysis allowed us to identify how the viruses are directly interacting with or coregulating known Alzheimer's genes". It's been overshadowed by the prevailing theory that Alzheimer's stems from sticky plaques that clog the brain.

The researchers were particularly interested in the microRNA (miRNA) miR-155, which has previously been linked with neuropathologic features of AD. "And if viral infections are playing a part, they are not the sole actor". Antiviral drugs could also be explored as a potential preventive treatment.

Dudley believes the new study could help scientists identify virus biomarkers in the brain that could one day help diagnose the disease and assess a person's risk.

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