Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative pathology, that is to say, caused by progressive destruction of brain neurons. A condition that corresponds to the most common type of dementia, Alzheimer’s accounts for between 60 and 70% of all cases of dementia, for a total of 30 million patients worldwide. Now, according to a study conducted by researchers at the Banner Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research at the Arizona State University, in Temple, USA, Alzheimer’s disease could have a viral origin.
“The main aim of our work was to discover the mechanisms of the disease, including those that could be the subject of drug therapies that had been adopted or were in the research phase. In other words, we were never going on a virus hunt. But wherever we looked, the viruses were’shouting at us,” said Ben Readhead, the study’s leading author.
The culprit for Alzheimer’s disease could be the herpesvirus
To conduct the study, the authors analyzed in depth the genetic characteristics of 622 brain tissues of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and compared them to 322 healthy brain samples.
The authors also assessed the possible presence of the virus in six brain regions that appear to be particularly vulnerable to the ravages made by Alzheimer’s. In fact, it is now believed that the damage to these regions could facilitate the diagnosis of the disease several decades before the onset of clinical symptoms.
Be that as it may, the results also showed a very high presence of two human herpesviruses, namely, herpesvirus 6A (HHV-6A) and herpesvirus 7 (HHV-7), in the brain tissues samples of the patients who had had Alzheimer’s disease.
“Previous studies of viruses and Alzheimer’s have always been very indirect. However, in our work, we have been able to perform more sophisticated computer analysis that has allowed us to see how the herpesvirus interacts directly in the regulation of genes known for their involvement in Alzheimer’s disease,” explained Joel Dudley, the study’s co-author. However, the scientists admitted that more studies would be needed to asses if Alzheimer’s has a viral origin indeed.