Is Alzheimer’s Caused by Contagious Proteins?

Health & Family

There’s been a lot of excitement over a paper that suggests a surprising way Alzheimer’s may progress in the brain. Based on work on a unique mouse model, researchers suggest that at least one of the abnormalities that drives the disease may spread from nerve cell to nerve cell like a virus.

That’s a stunning proposal, since there are only rare examples that proteins in the brain can “spread” in this way, aside from actual infectious agents like viruses or bacteria.

So it’s worth taking a closer look at exactly what the researchers mean by “spread.” For most of us, the concept conjures up something that is physically transmitted or passed on from one thing — in this case a cell — to another. Indeed, in their paper, published in PLoS One, the scientists describe a novel mouse strain that was genetically engineered to carry the human version of…

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