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Scientists uncover link between gum disease, Alzheimer's disease

By Tauren Dyson
Scientists uncover link between gum disease, Alzheimer's disease
After traveling from the mouth to the brain, Pg leak toxic enzymes called gingipains into the brain. Photo courtesy of Max Pixel

Jan. 24 (UPI) -- A common bacteria that causes gum disease seems be a pathegeon for Alzheimer's disease, a study says.

When lab animals were orally infected with Porphyromonas gingivalis, or Pg, it causes an increase in amyloid beta (Aβ), which makes up a plaque linked to Alzheimer's, according to a study published Thursday in Science Advances.

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"We now have strong evidence connecting P. gingivalis and Alzheimer's pathogenesis, but more research needs to be done before P. gingivalis is explicitly implicated in the causation or morbidity of AD," Jan Potempa, a researcher at University of Louisville, said in a news release.

After traveling from the mouth to the brain, Pg leak toxic enzymes called gingipains. That enzyme coincided with two proteins connected to Alzheimer's, tau and ubiquitin.

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"An even more notable aspect of this study is demonstration of the potential for a class of molecule therapies targeting major virulence factors to change the trajectory of AD, which seems to be epidemiologically and clinically associated with periodontitis," Potempa said.

A compound currently in clinical trials known as COR388 was able to reduce the bacterial load of Pg infection, amyloid-beta production and neuroinflammation in the hippocampus, the portion of the brain that shrinks during Alzheimer's development.

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"Drugs targeting the bacteria's toxic proteins have so far only shown benefit in mice, yet with no new dementia treatments in over 15 years it's important that we test as many approaches as possible to tackle diseases like Alzheimer's," David Reynolds, chief scientific officer from Alzheimer's Research UK, said in a news release.

"It's important we carefully assess all new potential treatments, and this drug is currently in an early phase clinical trial to establish if it is safe for people. We will have to see the outcome of this ongoing trial before we know more about its potential as a treatment for Alzheimer's."

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