Mice Develop Alzheimer's After Being Injected With Brain Tissue From Human Alzheimer's Patient

Posted on October 4, 2011

Some disturbing newly published research by The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) says that brain damage that characterizes Alzheimer's disease may originate in a form similar to that of infectious prion diseases, such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob. The researchers found in an experiment with mice that mice can develop Alzheimer's when the brain tissue of a human Alzheimer's patient is injected into their brains.

The researchers injected the brain tissue from a confirmed human Alzheimer's patient into mice and compared the results to those from injected tissue of a control without the disease. None of the mice injected with the control showed signs of Alzheimer's, whereas all of those injected with Alzheimer's brain extracts developed plaques and other brain alterations typical of the disease.

Claudio Soto, Ph.D., professor of neurology at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, said in a statement, "We took a normal mouse model that spontaneously does not develop any brain damage and injected a small amount of Alzheimer's human brain tissue into the animal's brain. The mouse developed Alzheimer's over time and it spread to other portions of the brain. We are currently working on whether disease transmission can happen in real life under more natural routes of exposure."

Soto also says, "Our findings open the possibility that some of the sporadic Alzheimer's cases may arise from an infectious process, which occurs with other neurological diseases such as mad cow and its human form, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The underlying mechanism of Alzheimer's disease is very similar to the prion diseases. It involves a normal protein that becomes misshapen and is able to spread by transforming good proteins to bad ones. The bad proteins accumulate in the brain, forming plaque deposits that are believed to kill neuron cells in Alzheimer's."

The results showing a potentially infectious spreading of Alzheimer's disease in animal models were published in the Oct. 4, 2011 online issue of Molecular Psychiatry.

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