SYDNEY: Neurobiologists have found they can induce Alzheimer’s disease in healthy mice by injecting diseased brain tissue, which means it may have an ‘infectious’ mechanism similar to prion diseases.
Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common form of dementia, affects more than 200,000 Australians, and is both incurable and fatal. This study may help understand some of the mechanisms involved in Alzheimer’s disease, but experts stress that there is no need to worry about catching the disease.
Collections of hard, tangled proteins called plaques are found between nerve cells in nearly all Alzheimer’s patients, and are likely responsible for the loss of brain and motor function seen in the disease. These plaques could be induced in healthy mice by injecting diseased brain tissue.
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In a study involving mice, researchers found that rats treated with GM-CSF, a protein produced in people with rheumatoid arthritis, had more than a 50 percent decrease in beta amyloid, which forms the plaques found in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. The scientists believe the protein attracts cells called microglia from the blood supply around the brain, which then attack the amyloid plaques characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease. The mice were genetically altered to have memory problems similar to those found in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.