Transmissible Alzheimers Theory Gains Traction
A normal brain of a 70-year-old , compared with the brain of a 70-year-old with Alzheimers disease.Credit: Jessica Wilson/Science Photo Library
Neuroscientists have amassed more evidence for the hypothesis that sticky proteins that are a hallmark of neurodegenerative diseases can be transferred between people under particular conditions and cause new damage in a recipients brain.
They stress that their research does not suggest that disorders such as Alzheimers disease are contagious, but it does raise concern that certain medical and surgical procedures pose a risk of transmitting such proteins between humans, which might lead to brain disease decades later.
The risk may turn out to be minor but it needs to be investigated urgently, says John Collinge, a neurologist at University College London who led the research, which is published in Nature on 13 December.
The work follows up on a provocative study published by Collinges team in 2015. The researchers discovered extensive deposits of a protein called amyloid-beta during post-mortem studies of the brains of four people in the United Kingdom. They had been treated for short stature during childhood with growth-hormone preparations derived from the pituitary glands of thousands of donors after death.
Is There A Risk Of Being Infected
Science is still working on determining what really causes Alzheimer’s disease. We know that risk factors like age, genetics, family history and lifestyle are all part of the picture. It’s also possible that an infectious property such as prions may be involved in Alzheimer’s disease, but this potential is unproven at this time and is based only on preliminary research with mice.
If it turns out that prions do play a role in Alzheimer’s disease, it’s important to remember that prion diseases are not spread through casual or even intimate physical contact with others. So, go ahead and hug that person with Alzheimer’s. Their disease is not contagious in any way, and they could experience some of the benefits related to appropriate physical touch for people with dementia, including lowering blood pressure, reducing pain and reducing challenging behaviors in dementia.
How Long Do Dementia Patients Live After Diagnosis
Dementia symptoms typically progress slowly. People with dementia will progress from mild to severe dementia at varying speeds and may be diagnosed earlier or later in life. Some people with dementia may live for up to 20 years after their diagnosis, though according to the Alzheimer’s Association research shows that the average person lives for four to eight years after a diagnosis of dementia. It’s important to point out that the diagnosis of dementia is often missed, delayed, or diagnosed when the illness is moderate or advanced. The impact of that variable may not be accurately reflected in the research regarding the years of life post-diagnosis.
What Causes Prion Disease
Prion diseases occur when normal prion protein, found on the surface of many cells, becomes abnormal and clump in the brain, causing brain damage. This abnormal accumulation of protein in the brain can cause memory impairment, personality changes, and difficulties with movement. Experts still don’t know a lot about prion diseases, but unfortunately, these disorders are generally fatal.
What Kind Of Doctor Tests For Dementia
A primary care doctor can perform a physical exam and find out more about your symptoms to determine what may be the cause. They will likely refer you to one or several specialists that can perform specific tests to diagnose dementia. Specialists may include neurologists, who specialize in the brain and nervous system psychiatrists or psychologists, who specialize in mental health, mental functions, and memory or geriatricians, who specialize in healthcare for older adults.
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Can Dementia Be Contagious
Dementia is frightening for anyone. Whether it’s the person just getting the news or their adult children, hearing the diagnosis sends chills down the spine. Is it contagious?
Diagram of the brain of a person with Alzheimer’s Disease
Johns Hopkins and Utah State University have been researching the finding that a person is more likely to develop dementia if his/her spouse has dementia.
The Johns Hopkins recent health alert reports:
“One thousand two hundred twenty-one married couples age 65 and older were selected from the Cache County Study on Memory and Aging, a trial that began in 1995. Couples were followed for up to 12.6 years, with a median follow-up time of 3.3 years. Dementia was diagnosed in 255 of the 2,442 participants.
Individuals whose spouses were diagnosed with dementia had a six-fold greater risk of dementia, even after adjusting for other factors, than individuals whose spouses showed no signs of dementia. Husbands had a significantly higher risk of developing dementia than wives.”
What can possibly cause this? Researchers speculate that the immense burdens of caring for a loved one with dementia, similar diets and people marrying individuals like themselves are possible reasons.
What can we do to prevent dementia?
We need to plan ahead and look for the signs of memory loss in our aging parents. We can’t stop the dementia, but we can surely plan for taking the best care of them we can.
Until next time,
The Human Form Of Mad Cow Disease
As a geriatric psychiatrist, I recognized that Marjories symptoms warranted careful evaluation. Even though she was only in her late 50s, very young for the onset of a dementia, her problem seemed unlike a routine case of depression. Her memory difficulty and her trouble carrying out tasks that had been simple a few months earlier suggested a neurocognitive problem such as delirium or dementia. The careful work of a local neurologist to whom I referred Marjorie led to a sad discovery. Marjorie was suffering from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, an infection of the brain that produces rapidly progressive dementia. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, sometimes called the human form of mad cow disease, and is caused by microscopic particles called prions, which are simple and potentially devastating proteins that cause certain host proteins to undergo a destructive change in shape. Although no curative treatment is available for this disorder, recognition of the diagnosis allowed Marjories family to prepare for her death and to ease her final weeks of suffering by providing a palliative and loving environment.
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New Type Of Prion May Cause Transmit Neurodegeneration
Multiple System Atrophy is described as first new human prion disease identified in 50 years
University of California San Francisco
Multiple System Atrophy , a neurodegenerative disorder with similarities to Parkinsons disease, is caused by a newly discovered type of prion, akin to the misfolded proteins involved in incurable progressive brain diseases such Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease , according to two new research papers led by scientists at UC San Francisco.
The findings suggest new approaches to developing treatments for MSA, which currently has no cure, but also raise a potential concern for clinicians or scientists who come in contact with MSA tissue.
The new findings mark the first discovery of a human disease caused by a new prion in 50 years, since work at the National Institutes of Health in the 1960s showed that human brain tissue infected with CJD could transmit neurodegeneration to chimpanzees.
It wasnt until 1982 that UCSFs Stanley Prusiner, MD isolated the causative agent for a related disease called scrapie, found in sheep, and characterized it as a prion, for infectious protein. He then determined that the same prion protein caused bovine spongiform encephalopathy , or mad cow disease, in cattle, and so-called variant CJD in humans who subsequently consumed BSE-contaminated beef or other tissues.
Who Is This Dementia Quiz For
Below is a list of 10 questions designed for people who are concerned about memory loss. The questions relate to life experiences common among people who have been diagnosed with dementia, a neurocognitive disorder, and are based on criteria in the DSM-5 .
Please read each question carefully, and indicate how often you have experienced the same or similar challenges in the past few months.
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Understanding Lewy Body Dementias
Lewy body dementias affect an estimated 1.4 million individuals and their families in the United States. At the Lewy Body Dementia Association , we understand that though many families are affected by this disease, few individuals and medical professionals are aware of the symptoms, diagnostic criteria, or even that LBD exists. There are important facts about Lewy body dementias that you should know if you, a loved one, or a patient you are treating may have LBD.
What Research Is Taking Place
The mission of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke is to seek fundamental knowledge of the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease. The NINDS is a component of the National Institutes of Health , the leading supporter of biomedical research in the world.
Other NIH Institutes, including the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the National Institute on Aging, also conduct research on CJD.
Researchers are examining and characterizing the prions associated with CJD and other human and animal prion diseases and trying to discover factors that influence prion infectivity and transmission, and how the disorder damages the brain. For example, researchers are investigating the cellular mechanisms involved in abnormal prion formation and accumulation, as well as their replication by select cellular subsets in the brain. Other projects are examining how abnormal prions cross the protective blood-brain barrier and spread throughout the central nervous system, and tests that measure the biological activity of prions. Findings may identify new therapeutic targets to treat prion diseases.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Frontotemporal Dementia
Early behavioral changes may include:
- Inappropriate social behavior and lack of social tact/manners. Examples include touching or kissing strangers, urinating in public, making rude or offensive comments, arguing, rashly overspending, and/or doing or saying things that others would find embarrassing or disgusting.
- Lack of empathy , loss of interest in other people or activities, reduced affection, neglect of personal grooming and hygiene. People with FTD are not aware of the changes that are happening and do not know how hurtful they are to close family members.
- Changes in food preferences, overstuffing mouth with food, binge eating, eating food quickly, attempting to eat non-food items.
- Becoming very obsessive or developing rituals, repeating things, collecting/hoarding items.
Language problems may include:
- Difficulty with the ability to form words.
- Problems with grammar, leaving words in a sentence out, causing speech to become effortful and shortened to simple, partial phrases.
- Lack of understanding of the meanings of words.
- Inability to recognize objects or familiar faces.
Symptoms of neuromuscular disease or Parkinsonism can include:
- Weakness in the arms and legs.
- Weakness in the muscles of speech, such as lips and tongue.
- Difficulty swallowing.
- Stiffness of muscles and slowness of movement.
- Tremor, or shaking.
The types of symptoms and the order in which they appear can vary.
Eventually Doctors May Be Able To Screen People According To The Many Different Microbes They May Be Carrying In Their Brains
This could just be another consequence of the overall assault on the body, including the increased inflammation that comes with the disease. But some animal studies and analyses of human autopsies suggest that the coronavirus can invade the brain. And laboratory experiments suggest that this infection may, in turn, trigger neural damage. In one striking study, Jay Gopalakrishnan at Heinrich-Heine-University in Dusseldorf and colleagues created a series of “cerebral organoids” miniature, lab-grown brain tissue and then exposed them to the virus. They saw some marked changes in the tau proteins that are associated with Alzheimer’s, and increased neural death, after infection from the virus.
Such findings ring alarm bells for Fulop. “Sars-Cov-2 may act exactly as HSV-1,” he proposes. Others including Gopalakrishnan are more cautious, however. “We have demonstrated that the virus can infect human neurons, and it can cause some sort of neuronal stress,” he says. “And this may have some unexpected effects.” Much more research will be necessary to assess any long-term risks for neurological disease.
An elderly women with dementia is vaccinated against Covid-19 by a team of volunteers
Three decades after her initial investigations, Itzhaki hopes we will now see the development of more clinical trials testing new treatments, in a bid to replicate the observations of the HSV1 patients receiving antiviral medication in Taiwan.
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What Is The Prognosis For Someone With Frontotemporal Dementia
Frontotemporal dementia worsens over time. Eventually people with FTD will need help with their activities of everyday living. Some people may need 24-hour care at home or at living facilities or nursing homes. The speed of decline varies from person to person, but the disease course typically ranges from two to 10 years.
Does Alzheimer’s Make The Brain More Susceptible To Infection
The blood-brain barrier protects the brain by controlling what substances can pass from the blood into brain tissue. In Alzheimer’s disease, the blood-brain barrier is damaged, particularly in the brain region affected by Alzheimer’s.
Evidence suggests that inflammation, the Alzheimer’s hallmark amyloid protein and the ApoE4 gene, which are all linked to Alzheimer’s disease, can contribute to the breakdown of the blood-brain barrier. Once it has been weakened, bacteria, viruses, and other harmful substances can get through into the brain more easily. This may explain why certain viruses and bacteria, such as herpes and spirochetes, are more common in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.
Greater Risks Of Alzheimers And Dementia For Blacks And Latinos
18.6% of Blacks and 14% of Hispanics age 65 and older have Alzheimers compared with 10% of White older adults .
- Other prevalence studies also indicate that older Blacks are about twiceas likely to have Alzheimers or other dementias as older Whites.
Research About How Alzheimer’s Disease Spreads
While Alzheimer’s disease is not spread through contact with others, some research with mice seems to indicate that it could have some type of an infectious component, possibly related to prions . In prion diseases, including Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, prion proteins begin to fold abnormally and then infect other healthy prions they encounter within the body, causing cells to die in the brain and dementia to develop. Although the unhealthy prions spread within a person, there is virtually no risk of the disease affecting other people around that individual, including family members or those caring for that person.
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Dementia With Lewy Bodies
Dementia with Lewy Bodies is another common form of dementia. It is caused by a build up of proteins called Lewy Bodies in the body. Lewy Bodies are also what cause Parkinsons disease, which is why both illnesses share the symptoms of reduced mobility and a shuffling walk. DLB also causes significant mental decline associated with the other major types of dementia, including lapses in memory and forgetfulness.
Read more about Dementia with Lewy bodies, including symptoms and treatments, in our Guide to Lewy Body Dementia.
How Accurate Is It
This quiz is NOT a diagnostic tool. Mental health disorders can only be diagnosed by licensed healthcare professionals.
Psycom believes assessments can be a valuable first step toward getting treatment. All too often people stop short of seeking help out of fear their concerns arent legitimate or severe enough to warrant professional intervention.
If you think you or someone you care about may be suffering from dementia or any other mental health condition, PsyCom.net strongly recommends that you seek help from a mental health professional in order to receive a proper diagnosis and support. For those in crisis, we have compiled a list of resources where you may be able to find additional help at: https://www.psycom.net/get-help-mental-health.
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What Is Dog Dementia
Dog Dementia or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction , an umbrella term for four separate cognitive forms, is an age-related neurobehavioral syndrome in dogs leading to a decline in cognitive function that can be devastating to the human/canine relationship. The forms are as follows:
Depression occurring in the dogs later years, similar to chronic depression in humans. Several factors may be involved, but untreated anxieties seem to play a key role. Because some of the symptoms of canine dementia circling, wandering and house soilingoften result in the dogs confinement, anxiety can increase, which, in turn, worsens the symptoms. Other symptoms of this form of CCD include lethargy, sleep disorders, decreased learning and vocalizing.
This often involves loss of awareness of body length and size. Dogs with dysthymia often get stuck, explains Fanucchi. Behind furniture, in a corner. All they have to do is walk backwards, but they dont know that. Other symptoms include disrupted sleep-wake cycles constant growling, whining or moaning and aggressive behavior. If you interrupt a dog while hes in a dysthymic state, he can get mad and bite, cautions Fanucchi. Causes of this form are thought to include hyperadrenocorticism and long-term steroid therapy.