A new study has found that Alzheimer’s Disease may be transmissible. It has previously been thought to be a non-contagious disease.

The study, conducted by a team from University College London, performed autopsies on eight cadavers that were known to be victims of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), that was contracted by them after having received human growth hormone therapy that was unknowingly contaminated with CJD prions. The team found that six of the subjects’ brains showed amyloid-beta pathology — amyloid-beta being a protein that is associated with Alzheimer’s, with four of the cases showing a buildup of amyloid deposits in the blood vessels of their brains.

The subjects, however, were only between the ages of 36 and 51 at the time of their deaths, of which is far too young to be exhibiting Alzheimer’s pathology. The team concluded that the amyloid-beta buildup found may have been transmitted to the individuals via their previous HGH therapy, suggesting that Alzheimer’s might be transmissible between humans.

Experts are quick to point out that, despite these findings, both Alzheimer’s and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease cannot be transmitted through direct contact, and previous studies have found no evidence that blood transfusions increase one’s risk of contracting Alzheimer’s. Nonetheless, the UCL team next plans to study samples of the CJD-contaminated human growth hormone that was used in the aforementioned treatment program, to find if more evidence of amyloid-beta are present.

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