How common fungus could influence Alzheimer’s development

Credit: Unsplash+.

Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine, along with collaborators from other institutions, have made significant progress in understanding how fungi, specifically Candida albicans, may play a role in the development of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

This fungus is known for causing infections but its potential impact on the brain has only recently been uncovered.

The study focused on the mechanisms through which Candida albicans enters the brain and influences its environment.

It was discovered that the fungus uses enzymes known as secreted aspartic proteases (Saps) to break through the blood-brain barrier, which typically protects the brain from pathogens. Once inside the brain, the fungus starts to affect brain functions.

Further exploration revealed that these Saps enzymes not only breach the brain’s protective barrier but also break down amyloid precursor proteins into amyloid beta-like peptides.

These peptides are similar to those associated with Alzheimer’s disease and are thought to contribute to its pathology.

The presence of these peptides activates microglia, the brain’s immune cells, through receptors like Toll-like receptor 4, which helps control the fungal population within the brain but does not entirely eradicate the infection.

Additionally, Candida albicans produces a protein called candidalysin, which plays a crucial role in how effectively the brain can clear the fungus.

It activates microglia through another receptor, CD11b. Disruption of this pathway results in impaired fungal clearance, suggesting a vital role for candidalysin in managing brain infections.

This research sheds light on a new aspect of Alzheimer’s disease development. Previously, it was thought that Alzheimer’s was primarily caused by the buildup of toxic amyloid peptides produced by the brain itself.

However, this study suggests that these peptides can also be generated externally by fungal infections like those caused by Candida albicans.

Notably, this fungus has been frequently identified in the brains of individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative conditions.

The insights provided by this research are crucial as they offer a novel perspective on the potential sources of amyloid beta-like peptides in the brain, implicating fungal infections as a possible contributing factor to Alzheimer’s disease.

This finding opens up new avenues for research into how treating or preventing fungal infections could potentially impact the progression of Alzheimer’s.

Given that these findings were derived from animal models, further research is needed to confirm their applicability to human Alzheimer’s disease.

Continued studies are essential to explore this connection more deeply, potentially leading to innovative prevention and treatment strategies for Alzheimer’s.

Overall, this study enhances our understanding of the complex interactions between fungal infections and neurodegenerative diseases, highlighting the need for a broader approach to studying brain health and disease prevention.

As research progresses, it may pave the way for new methods to combat Alzheimer’s disease, focusing not only on traditional treatments but also on managing other factors like infections that could influence brain health.

The full details of this groundbreaking study are available in Cell Reports, providing a comprehensive view of the research and its implications for future Alzheimer’s disease strategies.

If you care about brain health, please read studies about vitamin D deficiency linked to Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, and extra-virgin olive oil could boost brain function.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce dementia risk, and strawberries could help prevent Alzheimer’s disease

Copyright © 2024 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.