Alzheimer’s disease transmitted by growth hormones

Alzheimer's disease transmitted by growth hormones

Recent analyzes show that patients treated in the past with growth hormones developed Alzheimer’s disease. A discovery which evokes for the first time the transmissible factor of the disease, under certain conditions.

According to a British study revealed on January 29, several patients developed symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease after receiving treatment thirty years ago with an extractive growth hormone, taken from the pituitary gland of corpses. A surprising announcement given that Alzheimer’s disease has always been defined as non-transmissible.

They develop Alzheimer’s without having a predisposition

The research published in the journal Nature Medicine reports on 8 patients who received extractive growth hormones in the 1980s. Thirty years later, all are sick and seven of them present several symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease even though nothing in their DNA predisposed them to develop the disease. The research also notes that none of the patients experienced the same journey, the same illnesses, nor the same treatments during their lives, except for these extractive growth hormones, the only thing common to all.

The same transmission scheme as for Creutzfeldt-Jakob?

Importantly, these extractive growth hormones are the same as those involved in the Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease scandal, which infected 800 children and killed more than a hundred in Europe. Banned since the end of the 1980s, they were made from pituitary glands taken from corpses. Unfortunately, these were contaminated with prions, an infectious protein that misfolded and caused degenerative disease of the central nervous system.

This is something in common with Alzheimer’s. In this disease, it is also a misfolded protein, called amyloid beta peptide (or β-amyloid) which is the source of degeneration, when it is present in excess alongside another protein, Tau, which is ‘accumulated. But what the researchers demonstrate here is that in the patients observed, the accumulation of β-amyloid proteins was only made possible with transmission by a drug. In other words, Alzheimer’s would be “transmissible”, not like a virus, but like a prion.

Better understand Alzheimer’s disease

With this discovery, should we expect to see a new health scandal linked to Alzheimer’s disease which would have been “transmitted” to many French people? The question may arise but will undoubtedly remain unlikely. On the one hand, the research was based on only 8 patients out of thousands observed, making the transmission hypothesis quite exceptional.

On the other hand, and fortunately, growth hormone taken from the pituitary gland of corpses has been banned in Europe for more than 30 years. Today, the manufacturing processes for this medicine have changed and such contamination is no longer possible. This synthetic growth hormone for injection is generally presented in freeze-dried form (powder), which is reconstituted by adding sterile water before injection.

But the new publication can nevertheless be proud to teach us a little more about Alzheimer’s disease, which still contains many mysteries.