In a groundbreaking revelation, a recent article in Nature Medicine suggests the potential transmission of Alzheimer’s disease from person to person. The study explores the long-term implications for patients who received human growth hormone (hGH) derived from the brain tissue of deceased donors. This practice, prevalent from 1959 to 1985, was halted due to nearly 200 patients worldwide developing Creuztfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), a rare condition causing rapidly progressive dementia.
CJD is associated with prions, abnormal proteins capable of transmitting infective particles from cell to cell. The study discovered five individuals who received donated hGH and later developed early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Previously, hGH was sourced from purified human pituitary tissue, potentially exposing patients to contaminated material from thousands of donors.
While the synthetic laboratory production of hGH has eliminated this risk, the latest findings indicate the potential transmission of Alzheimer’s through human-to-human contact. Given the higher prevalence of Alzheimer’s compared to CJD, individuals who received donated hGH before 1985 may face an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The proposed mode of transmission aligns with the spread of abnormal proteins in Alzheimer’s, similar to prion diseases.
However, due to the extended period between the deposition of amyloid proteins in the brain and the onset of clinical Alzheimer’s symptoms, there may be a significant time lag before cases related to donated hGH become apparent. This study introduces a new dimension to our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and underscores the importance of scrutinizing medical practices for potential long-term consequences.