, Volume 9, Issue 1-3, pp 1-13

Possible factors in the etiology of Alzheimer's disease

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Abstract

Inherited cases of Alzheimer's disease (AD) comprise only a very small proportion of the total. The remainder are of unknown etiopathogenesis, but they are very probably multifactorial in origin. This article describes studies on four possible factors: aluminum; viruses—in particular, herpes simplex type I virus (HSV1); defective DNA repair; and head trauma. Specific problems associated with aluminum, such as inadvertent contamination and its insolubility, have led to some controversy over its usage. Nonetheless, the effects of aluminum on animals and neuronal cells in culture have been studied intensively. Changes in protein structure and location in the cell are described, including the finding in this laboratory of a change in τ resembling that in AD neurofibrillary tangles, and also the lack of appreciable binding of aluminum to DNA. As for HSV1, there has previously been uncertainty about whether HSV1 DNA is present in human brain. Work in this laboratory using polymerase chain reaction has shown that HSV1 DNA is present in many normal aged brains and AD brains, but is absent in brains from younger people. Studies on DNA damage and repair in AD and normal cells are described, and finally, the possible involvement of head trauma is discussed.