Dementia Symptoms Less Noticeable Among Latinos, Study Says

Researchers have found bacterial pathogens in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, and have shown that they could be driving progression of the disease... Now some scientists think the proteins that form those plaques might actually be part of the brain's defense against bacteria, including P. gingivalis.

The epigenetic changes happen mostly in the later stages of the disease, when patients are unable to retain recently learned information and suffer dramatic cognitive decline, Yan says a key reason for the cognitive decline is the loss of glutamate receptors, which play a key role in learning and short-term memory. And just 1% of Alzheimer's patients have a genetic mutation linked to the disease, according to the Alzheimer's Society, while the mutation was at the center of this new research.

It's possible that news of the possible link will lead to people spending more time on their dental health than they now do, though: One study found less than one third of Americans floss daily.

They also showed that when genetically modified mice who were predisposed to Alzheimer's were infected with P. gingivalis, the bacterium ended up in their brain and that this was associated with increased levels of amyloid protein.

According to experts, brain injuries can be caused by toxic enzymes released by bacteria.

A new blood test can look for a protein that people predisposed for Alzheimer's disease are likely to have.

In the study, Dominy and his colleagues swabbed P. gingivalis onto the gums of healthy mice every other day for 6 weeks.

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"We now have strong evidence connecting P. gingivalis and Alzheimer's pathogenesis, but more research needs to be done before P. gingivalis is explicitly implicated in the causation or morbidity of Alzheimer's disease", said study co-author Jan Potempa. Her team previously found that P. gingivalis actively invades the brains of mice with gum infections.

Gum disease is far more common than Alzheimer's. He hopes the test will allow researchers to monitor the effectiveness of new treatments before people have started to experience symptoms, by measuring how levels of the protein are affected. He and Lynch note that a study published in PLOS ONE in October 2018 by a team at the University of IL in Chicago also found that an oral infection with P. gingivalis can cause amyloid buildup and neurodegeneration in the brains of mice.

Senior author Dr David Holtzman who is head of the Department of Neurology, said: 'The interesting thing about this study is that it suggests that real-life factors such as sleep might affect how fast the disease spreads through the brain.

The Buffalo researchers believe their work in the developing science of epigenetics will yield answers in the elusive search for new Alzheimer's therapies. But the good news is that a drug that blocks the main toxins of P. gingivalis is entering major clinical trials this year, and research published today shows it might stop and even reverse Alzheimer's.

Next steps for the test include replicating the results in sporadic Alzheimer's disease patients, who are older and often have other health issues.

The findings, which were published in the January 14 issue of Nature Medicine, can potentially help with early Alzheimer's diagnoses and new drug development. "We would send patients off for more specific Alzheimer's tests if the results come back showing a cause for concern", Professor Masters said.

  • Ismael Montgomery