Alzheimer's disease has been a longstanding medical mystery. Science has speculated widely about what may cause the mental disease, and how a cure might be developed. Those blanks appear to have been filled in by new research.
New evidence suggests that the culprit is Porphyromonas gingivalis, the bacteria responsible for gum disease. Previous to this hypothesis, the working theory was that Alzheimer's was a product of the body's inability to regulate amyloid and tau proteins in the brain. However, researchers have become increasingly skeptical of this theory as they've found amyloid and tau in healthy brains. This new theory claims that the body may produce these proteins in the brain as defense against bacteria, specifically Porphyromonas gingivalis.
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Science has known for a while that there's some kind of correlative relationship between Alzheimer's and gum disease. This new research appears to establish causation. P. gingivalis infections have been shown to affect the areas of the brain impaired by Alzheimer's. The research also shows that introducing P. gingivalis to mice who have been bred to have Alzheimer's accelerates the onset of their symptoms. P. gingivalis is also capable of producing Alzheimer's symptoms in otherwise healthy lab mice.
The research has come from multiple places, and all appears to mutually corroborate. Scientists are hopeful that the new insights will result in a diagnostic test for Alzheimer's and also a treatment modality that can reduce or even reverse the disease's symptoms. A class of drugs called "gingipain blockers" may be able to prevent and even cure Alzheimer's in humans.
Also exciting is the possibility of a P. gingivalis vaccine that could drastically reduce the incidence of Alzheimer's.
These new developments come as a huge breath of fresh air to a world that was seemingly powerless against the disease, which has killed so many people and broken so many hearts.