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publicado em 18/10/2011 às 12h00:00
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Antiviral drugs can slow progression of Alzheimer's disease

Drugs used to combat the herpes virus can be effective in slowing progression of Alzheimer's disease

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Scientists at the University of Manchester, UK, have shown that the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1) is a risk factor for Alzheimer's when he is present in the brains of people who have a specific genetic risk for the disease.

AD is an incurable neurodegenerative condition that affects about 18 million people worldwide. The causes of disease or abnormal protein structures seen in AD brain - amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles - are completely unknown.

The Manchester team has found that the herpes virus causes accumulation of two key proteins AD - ß-amyloid (AA) and phosphorylated tau (P-tau) - known for being the main components of plaques and tangles. Both proteins are considered by many scientists to be involved in disease development.

"We found that the viral DNA in the brain is located within the amyloid plaques," said Professor Ruth Itzhaki, who led the team in the Faculty of the University of Life Sciences. "This, along with the production of amyloid induces the virus suggests that HSV1 is a cause of toxic products and amyloid plaques.

"Our results suggest that HSV1, together with host genetic factors, is a major risk for AD, and that antiviral agents can be used to treat patients to slow the progression of the disease."

Currently available antiviral agents are targeting HSV1 DNA replication, and so the researchers found that AD treatment is effective only if the accumulation of beta-amyloid and tau P caused by the virus occur during or after the phase in which viral DNA replication occurs.

"If these proteins are produced independently of the replication of HSV1, the drugs may not be effective," said Professor Itzhaki. "We investigated it and found that treatment of HSV1-infected cells with acyclovir, the antiviral agent most commonly used, as well as two other antiviral medications, in fact decrease the accumulation of beta-amyloid and tau-P, as well as decrease the replication of HSV1.

"This is the first study to investigate antiviral effects in AD and concluded that antiviral agents reduce levels of beta-amyloid and tau-P levels in cells infected with HSV1 and that would be suitable for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. The great advantage in relation to current therapies is that acyclovir would target only the virus, not the host cell or uninfected cells. In addition, these agents are very safe and relatively inexpensive.

"The next stage of our research will focus on finding the most appropriate antiviral agent - or a combination of two agents that operate through different mechanisms - for use as a treatment. Then we have to investigate how the virus and the factor genetic risk interact to cause disease, since it could lead to new treatments. "

   Palavras-chave:   Alzheimer's gene    Herpes    Research at the University of Manchester   
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