ApoE4 – The Ancestral Allele

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More evidence on ApoE4 / HSV / Alzheimer’s connection

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Turns out there is a fair bit of study on this connection we recently reported on. Here’s another paper (gated): Herpes simplex virus type 1, apolipoprotein E, and cholesterol: a dangerous liaison in Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders. ApoE4 appears to predispose the brain to multiple weaknesses against stressors, we’ve already covered how E4s should not get hit in the head, and this HSV vulnerability is another thing to watch out for.


Written by patrissimo

May 3, 2014 at 11:19 pm

Could HSV1 be the cause of Alzheimer’s in APOE4s?

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A reader sent in this fascinating article, which offers evidence that Alzheimer’s Disease in APOE4s might be caused or partially caused by a side effect of the body’s reaction to the Herpes Simplex 1 virus (the primary cause of cold sores). Here is the paper (Note: you may need to be logged into a Google Account to see the paper embedded. Otherwise, click on the link and then download the file.)

The evidence cited includes the presence of HSV1-related DNA in the brain regions most affected by AD, that APOE4 confers an increased risk for HSV1, and direct linkage between HSV1 and the amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles which are the main features of AD. If continued work validates the theory, this would not be the first time that a common virus was found to underly a major disease – consider the discovery that HPV causes cervical cancer, for which Harald zur Hausen won the 2008 Nobel Prize in Medicine, and which made it possible to create a vaccine preventing cervical cancer.

If this theory pans out, then in addition to vaccines, antivirals such as acyclovir might be able to slow or stop the progress of AD. The author’s caution that plaques in AD develop over many years, and there is no reason to think that antivirals will reverse the course of the disease. However, given the prevalence of genetic testing and the role of APOE4, perhaps long-term prophylactic treatment of identified APOE4s (perhaps also seropositive for HSV1) with acyclovir might significantly slow the development of plaques and symptoms.

Kudos to the authors, Ruth F Itzhaki and Matthew A Wozniak, of the Faculty of Life Sciences at The University of Manchester, for this innovative work.

Written by patrissimo

April 14, 2014 at 5:13 pm