Thursday, October 06, 2011

Alzheimer's Disease Might Be Incurable

Recent findings suggest that Alzheimer's might be an infectious prion disease. Why it's taken so long for someone to think of and perform this experiment is beyond me, but now someone has. If these results hold up, then I am not sure if progress will be made or not in curing Alzheimer's disease. Prion diseases are diseases where a protein causes correct copies of itself to fold in a different conformation that is pathogenic and harmful to the cells. Prion diseases in mammals tend to affect the brain and lead to death. They are not curable currently. I know that people are trying to find drugs that reverse the folding allowing the proteins to resume their normal function, but I know of no significant results of that strategy yet.

However, knowledge is a good thing. If we know that a misfolded protein is the cause of Alzheimer's then we should be able to find out what causes the misfolding and which people will be susceptible. Alternatively, there could be two or more versions of Alzheimer's, since there is an inherited version of the disease. In the inherited form, the mutant variant of the protein may be able to misfold spontaneously and cause the disease de novo. In the other form, a person may have to ingest contaminated meat or animal products to get the disease. Those affected may have another variant of the protein as well.

Until the results are reproduced and verified independently, people should not worry. If they are verified, then Alzheimer's research will be turned on it's ear, but then, real progress can then be made.

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Comments:
Soto's work sounds interesting. I forget whether Alzheimer's runs in my family.
 
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