Their theory posits that when enough beta amyloid plaques build up during an infection, they then trigger inflammation and other unhelpful responses, such as the creation of tau tangles that kill neurons.
Brains riddled with Alzheimer's disease contain high levels of two strains of human herpes virus, researchers discovered.
Researchers in the USA believe the disease may trigger an immune "cascade" which encourages the growth of amyloid plaques.
It could also imply novel viral targets and biological pathways that could be addressed with new preventative and therapeutic drugs, according to Dudley.
Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine in NY and Arizona State University in Tempe conducted RNA sequencing on data from 3 brain banks to evaluate differential viral abundance in AD. While the findings are not causative, they do suggest an interaction between viral DNA sequences and the molecular, genetic, and clinical characteristics of AD.
"We didn't go looking for viruses, but viruses sort of screamed out at us", said lead author Ben Readhead, of Arizona State University. "We were able to use a range of network biology approaches to tease apart how these viruses may be interacting with human genes we know are relevant to Alzheimer's".
Common viral species, particularly herpesviruses, may play a role in Alzheimer's disease, new research suggests.
Streetman says the fundraising helps support the Alzheimer's Association's many programs and services. When they later bred mice deficient in this microRNA, they found that the rodents developed larger and more abundant amyloid plaques in their brains than did mice with normal microRNA levels. It focuses on raising awareness for Alzheimer's disease, which affects more than 5 million Americans.
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He added: "While the findings indicate a link between the activity of these viruses and Alzheimer's, they don't tell us whether they contribute to the development of the disease, help the brain to cope with the disease, or just occur alongside Alzheimer's processes without having an impact on the health of the brain". Further study into how these particular viruses interacted with human genes revealed they may disrupt a gene galled Mir155. So, while the connection found in this research is intriguing, it can not draw a clear line between the presence of the virus and the onset of Alzheimer's. They designed their study to map and compare biological networks underlying Alzheimer's disease.
There are multiple points of overlap between virus-host interactions and genes associated with Alzheimer's risk.
HAMILTON: Levels of two human herpes viruses were up to twice as high in brain tissue from people with Alzheimer's. It may not even have penetrated the brain.
The study also fits with mounting evidence that how aggressively the brain's immune system defends itself against viruses or other germs may be riskier than an actual infection, said Alzheimer's specialist Dr. Rudolph Tanzi of Massachusetts General Hospital.
Dudley and his colleagues stumbled across this possible viral link to Alzheimer's during an analysis meant to find ways that drugs used to treat other illnesses could be repurposed for treating the dreaded neurodegenerative disease.
DUDLEY: We nearly mapped out the social network, if you will, of which genes the viruses are friends with and who they're talking to inside the brain and if the viruses are tweeting, who's tweeting back.
The researchers were funded by the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health.
HAMILTON: But he says the evidence is good enough to merit a study looking at whether antiviral drugs can delay or prevent Alzheimer's.