Jaunmuktane et al. Nature 525, 247–250 (2015)
Amyloid-β protein (brown) has been found in the pituitary gland, which sits just outside the brain.
Only a decade ago, the idea that Alzheimer’s disease might be transmissible between people would have been laughed off the stage. But scientists have since shown that tissues can transmit symptoms of the disease between animals — and new results imply that humans, at least in one unusual circumstance, may not be an exception.
The findings, published in this issue of Nature, emerged during autopsy studies of the brains of eight people who had died of the rare but deadly Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (CJD; Z. Jaunmuktaneet al. Nature 525, 247–250; 2015). They contracted it decades after treatment with contaminated batches of growth hormone that had been extracted from the pituitary glands of human cadavers. Six of the brains, in addition to the damage caused by CJD, harboured the tell-tale amyloid pathology that is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
“This is the first evidence of real-world transmission of amyloid pathology,” says molecular neuroscientist John Hardy of University College London (UCL). “It is potentially concerning.”/.../