Researchers in the UK have identified five cases of Alzheimer’s disease suspected to have originated from medical treatments administered decades ago, indicating the potential transmission of the disease between humans. This groundbreaking study presents the initial evidence of Alzheimer’s disease in living individuals that appears to have been acquired through medical procedures from deceased donors, attributable to the transmission of a toxic protein associated with the condition.
As per researchers from University College London (UCL) and University College London Hospitals (UCLH), the discoveries could hold significant implications for comprehending and addressing Alzheimer’s disease. Even though the practice associated with this transmission ceased in the 1980s, experts advise a reassessment of medical procedures to prevent the occurrence of rare cases of Alzheimer’s transmission in the future. It’s important to note that there is no indication that the protein (amyloid-beta) can be transmitted in everyday life or through routine medical or social care.
Alzheimer’s is caused by the build-up of the proteins in the brain and usually occurs later in adult life with no specific family link, or more rarely it could be an inherited condition that occurs due to a faulty gene.
The people described in the study had all been treated as children with a type of human growth hormone taken from dead donors (cadaver-derived human growth hormone or c-hGH).
Between 1959 and 1985, this was used to treat at least 1,848 people in the UK and used for various causes of short stature, when a child or a teen is well below the average height of their peers.
However, the administration of this treatment was halted in 1985 upon the realization that certain batches of cadaver-derived human growth hormone (c-hGH) were tainted with prions, infectious proteins that had induced Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) — a rare and fatal brain condition — in certain individuals. Subsequently, c-hGH was substituted with a synthetic growth hormone that eliminated the risk of transmitting CJD.