Invisible protein fragments that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease later on can be transmitted from one person to another through surgical tools, a new study suggests.
The research is the first to promote that idea that dementia could be transmitted from carriers to healthy people. Nevertheless, the findings were deemed controversial and purely speculative by several critics.
On the other hand, some experts are concerned about the safety of some low-risk surgeries including dental interventions. Although the protein fragments were not found in blood donations, researchers suggest more research needs to be conducted.
A group of U.S. scientists came across the new findings while they were working on deciphering another puzzle related to a devastating medical condition transmitted via surgical instruments. “Iatrogenic” Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (iCJD) is a fatal disease that can destroy a patient’s brain in several years, but the incubation period may last up to 50 years.
The research team inspected the brains of the patients who died because of the neurodegenerative disease. Surprisingly, six of eight dead patients had a clear sign of early Alzheimer’s: deposits of a protein dubbed amyloid in the grey matter and within brain blood vessels.
Researchers then searched the patient’ family history for Alzheimer’s cues and they found none.
On the other hand, all patients received growth hormone treatment with hormones taken from human cadavers. So in the meantime, the hormone seemingly carried both iCJD and amyloids into the patients’ brains.
But because iCJD can reach the human body through medical procedures, too, scientists suspect that the same goes for amyloids.
Dr. John Collinge, lead author of the study and head of the University College London’s Medical Research Council Prion Unit in the U.K., believes that Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases could be “acquired,” but only in extremely rare cases.
Dr. Collinge explained that people usually get Alzheimer’s because the tiny protein fragments form into their brains as they age or because there’s a genetic defect that triggers them. But patients could also get the proteins from “medical accidents,” researchers suggest.
Study authors also noted that the “seeds” of iCJD and Alzheimer’s can attach to metal instruments and are really hard to kill through conventional sterilization methods.
Moreover mouse studies had shown that Alzheimer’s transmission from one patient to another may be more than just a theory.
Researchers said that they injected liquefied brain tissue from late Alzheimer’s patients into lab mice and monkeys and observed that the animals quickly developed the disease.
Image Source: Pixabay