Dementia: Brushing your teeth against Alzheimer's?

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Dementia: Brushing your teeth against Alzheimer's?
Dementia: Brushing your teeth against Alzheimer's?

Brush your teeth against Alzheimer's?

Deposits on the teeth can lead to periodontitis, a bacterial inflammation of the gums which, if left untreated, loosens the hold of the teeth until they eventually fall out. Bad enough, one might think. But according to a recent study, it can even become a case for the neurologist.

Scientists have suspected for years that the bacterium Porphyromonas gingivalis, which causes a severe and aggressive form of periodontitis, could be a risk factor for the development of Alzheimer's dementia. However, a causal relationship has not yet been proven.

A research team led by Jan Potempa from the Jagiellonian University in Kraków and the US University of Louisville is now providing an indication of this. The scientists detected the bacterium and its toxic enzymes (special proteases) by means of DNA and antibody analysis in almost every examined brain of deceased Alzheimer's patients. The spatial proximity between the proteases and the tau fibrils, which are among the main features of Alzheimer's disease, was striking. The researchers showed both in vitro and in mice that the proteases influence the structure of the tau proteins and can thus cause the fibrils that are typical of Alzheimer's. If they infected the animals orally with the bacterium, the germs and amyloid plaques were found in the brain tissue. These also belong to the pathological deposits that lead to the death of nerve cells.

The scientists emphasize that the bacterium is probably not the main cause of the disease, but only increases the risk of Alzheimer's. Nevertheless, the study gives reason for hope: The researchers have developed an active substance that inhibits proteases and delivers promising results in mice. They are currently in the process of testing the drug on affected people.

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