Not much rocks the scientific world, mostly because of its nature. Scientists believe something to be true only when it is based on hard evidence, and repeated, and precisely duplicated research findings. But as with every rule there is an exception and scientists are practically giddy over the early findings of a new study regarding Alzheimer’s Disease. Recently reported in the New York Times, a new Harvard study provokes the question, “Could it be that Alzheimer’s disease stems from the toxic remnants of the brain’s attempt to fight off infection?”
According to the Times, “Provocative new research by a team of investigators at Harvard leads to this startling hypothesis, which could explain the origins of plaque, the mysterious hard little balls that pockmark the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.”
For a profession not given to overstatement or exaggeration, scientists are practically doing backflips over the early findings of this hypothesis, which they say has major implications for preventing and treating this Alzheimer’s Disease. Some are calling the research “interesting”, “provocative”, “innovative and novel”.
According to the Times report, the basic idea is that “infections, including ones that are too mild to elicit symptoms, may produce a fierce reaction that leaves debris in the brain, causing Alzheimer’s.”
The work began with Robert D. Moir, of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, who then collaborated with his colleague Rudolph E. Tanzi, in a study funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund. The reason the work is so exciting is best explained by the Times report:
“The Harvard researchers report a scenario seemingly out of science fiction. A virus, fungus or bacterium gets into the brain, passing through a membrane — the blood-brain barrier — that becomes leaky as people age. The brain’s defense system rushes in to stop the invader by making a sticky cage out of proteins, called beta amyloid. The microbe, like a fly in a spider web, becomes trapped in the cage and dies. What is left behind is the cage — a plaque that is the hallmark of Alzheimer’s.”
Admittedly, these are the early days of this study. So far, the group has confirmed this hypothesis in petri dishes, yeast, roundworms, fruit flies and mice. Work must begin to see if a similar “sequence” occurs in human beings. Many, many questions need to be answered regarding why some people get infections that don’t lead to Alzheimer’s and why some brains can clear out the plaque but others can’t. However, the findings, and the possibilities that they pose for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease are enormous and could change the face of the disease, and its treatment.
As funding is put in place for larger studies to further develop the hypothesis, Dr. Tanzi says, “First, we need to ask whether there are microbes that may sneak into the brain as we age and trigger amyloid deposition. Then,” he said, “we can aim at stopping them.”
While scientists continue to work to unearth the causes of Alzheimer’s Disease, Sevens Home Care works to support those impacted by it and other forms of dementia. We realize the importance of supporting families in providing loving, kind care to loved ones coping with these diseases. Here’s how:
When a senior exhibits the onset of dementia and/or Alzheimer’s Disease, the professionals at Sevens Home Care will support you and your family, helping you to understand the disease while keeping your loved one at home. We primarily offer services in the individual’s private residence but will also provide one-on-one support for your loved one in assisted living and rehabilitation centers, skilled nursing facilities, hospices and hospitals. We go wherever and whenever a patient needs care on a regular schedule, weekly or monthly visits or for one-time respite care.
When it comes time for your loved one to be safe in a secure, memory centered facility, Sevens Residential Memory Care provides a safe, enriching environment. Our innovative house specializes in memory care including Alzheimer’s and Dementia, and is located in a residential neighborhood in Lakewood, CO. Accommodating only 12 residents and two full-time care partners, our model offers highly personalized supervision and a supportive community that fosters individual freedom.
To learn more about Sevens Home Care, call 303-470-1921. To learn more about Sevens Residential Memory Care and to schedule a tour call 720-477-1727.