Cold Sores and Alzheimers: Working Together?

By: Nazima Golamaully

Cold sores may be high up on your list of embarrassing problems. These unsightly bumps affect the majority of the population and can be passed on by an affectionate kiss from a favorite aunt. The virus that causes cold sores, herpes simplex 1, then stays in the nerve cell ganglion and emerges in times of stress which can then make life more stressful! But scientists are currently exploring a finding that links the virus that causes cold sores to Alzheimer's disease and the findings are proving dramatic.

Genes and the Herpes Simplex 1 Virus

The genetic component of how the immune system works is widely regarded as important. But a study in the online journal Neurobiology of Aging indicates that whether you have a single gene in evidence can play a large role in whether you develop cold sores and Alzheimer's disease.

The details are still being worked out, but as herpes simplex installs itself in nerve cells, or neurons, it appears to pave the way for Alzheimer's disease. Scientists have found that the cold sore virus tends to be more easily activated in individuals carrying a copy of the ApoE-4 gene. Individuals may carry ApoE-4, ApoE-2, ApoE-1 or no ApoE gene at all. Right now, it is the ApoE-4 gene that is raising red flags for researchers looking for a cause and cure for alzheimers.

How Does it Work?

With these recent findings, scientists are unable to form clear connections in how cold sores affect Alzheimer's Disease development. With the three factors of genes, virus, and disease are other factors such as nutrition and environment. It has been established that genes are highly influenced by external factors and it is these external areas of control which may prove vital for those carrying the ApoE-4 gene. While studies in mice have given tantalizing evidence of a solid connection, it will be awhile before drugs are developed to effectively manage the connection.

Some Possible Areas of Development

The cold sore virus and Alzheimer's connection may have a few stepping stones missing in between, but researchers are currently hunting down a few possible components that may prove fruitful. The substance Amyloid-beta is linked to the buildup of plaque in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, and there is evidence that the ApoE-4 gene may not be as efficient in clearing tissues as other forms. Another possible route to discovery is the molecule Nectin-1, which plays an important role in forming connective tissues in the brain. Nectin-1 is also utilized by the cold sore virus in infecting individual cells. With expansion of our present knowledge, the exact connection Alzheimer's and cold sores may become clear in time.

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