Lack of sleep speeds up Alzheimer's damage in brain

P. gingivalis causes periodontitis, an infection that destroys the gums and can lead to tooth loss.

The same bacteria was further found in 51 out of 53 brain autopsies of Alzheimer's disease patients, according to new research by Dr. Stephen Dominy and Casey Lynch, founders of the pharmaceutical firm Cortexyme.

However evidence has been growing that the function of amyloid proteins may be as a defence against bacteria, leading to a spate of recent studies looking at bacteria in Alzheimer's, particularly those that cause gum disease, which is known to be a major risk factor for the condition.

Sarah Marzi, a postdoctoral researcher at Queen Mary University of London, said that the researchers "most promisingly" show changes of NfL predicting cognitive test results and thinning of the cortex, "two main symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease".

A new approach to Alzheimer's disease has been developed that could one day make it possible to reverse the devastating memory loss seen in its later stages.

In people with Alzheimer's, tau tangles tend to populate parts of the brain important for memory, such as the hippocampus, before spreading to other areas. Lynch thinks this research has a potential benefit in the future as they continue to learn more about Alzheimer's disease.

Dr James Pickett, head of research at Alzheimer's Society, said: "The laboratory work does suggest that this infection could cause damage to cells of the brain but there isn't yet clear evidence that it can cause this damage in people or result in Alzheimer's". Bacteria that cause a common yet largely preventable gum infection may also play a role in Alzheimer's disease. Every 65 seconds, another American develops the disease. If the findings are shown to be correct, this could offer one reason for why 5.7 million Americans are now living with Alzheimer's disease: a figure set to rise to 14 million by 2050.

But Jucker warns that the test is not specific to Alzheimer's disease, he added.

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The British Dental Association has used the news to remind the Department of Health on the importance of oral health.

'We've known that sleep problems and Alzheimer's are associated in part via a different Alzheimer's protein - amyloid beta - but this study shows that sleep disruption causes the damaging protein tau to increase rapidly and to spread over time.

In those with the faulty gene variant, protein levels were higher at baseline and rose over time.

'But the evidence of causation hasn't been convincing. Cortexyme's gingipain blockers have passed initial safety tests and the company plans on launching a clinical trial soon that will investigate the drug's effects on cognition.

That's because the protein indicates any loss of nerve cells in the brain.

This study involved a series of experiments on human brain tissues in the laboratory and on mice. In mice, they found that the oral infection led to brain colonization of the bacteria as well as increased production of amyloid beta. "But these mice did not develop any Alzheimer's pathology and were conducted in small groups (around 10 mice per group)". The treatment recently passed human safety studies and is due to enter Phase II/III clinical trials in mild to moderate Alzheimer's patients this year.

Sunday, Feb. 24, the Glenn Biggs Institute will host a panel discussion at the Tobin Center titled "Protecting your Brain from Alzheimer's Disease: A Panel Discussion on the Role of Sleep, Stress, Diet and Exercise".

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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