We have long associated Alzheimer’s disease as a condition that could come with aging, but have you ever thought that the disease could also be transmitted? 


In most cases, Alzheimer’s disease affects an older population group, as around 1 in every 9 people who are aged 65 or older in the US have Alzheimer’s. However, in January 2024, researchers have reported in the Nature journal that five people who received contaminated injections of a growth hormone in their early childhood years came to develop Alzherimer’s disease unusually early – between ages 38 and 55. This points to the potential that the contamination of the growth hormones to be a cause of the unusually early development of Alzheimer’s disease in the 5 people reported. 


These 5 people received hormone injections that are used to treat various growth disorders. The hormones are extracted from pituitary glands of cadavers (a practice no longer used), as the pituitary gland is the location in the body that produces growth hormones that signals the body for growth. However, sometimes these extractions are contaminated with infectious, misshapen proteins, which could cause serious problems in human cells such as preventing the cells from doing its regular jobs to forming clumps in cells. 


One of these infectious proteins that came along with the extracted growth hormones from pituitary glands of cadavers is the amyloid-beta protein, which research shows is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease as it accumulates in the brain. In class, we learned about the importance of growth hormone proteins in stimulating cell growth. When cells receive growth hormone signals, they are stimulated to keep dividing and growing, and conversely when they don’t, they will stop the cell reproduction cycle. However, for patients who were contaminated with the A-beta growth hormone protein, some harmful cells in their body would be instructed to keep on growing, dividing, and continuing their reproduction cycle, which could be a possible cause of Alzheimer’s disease. 


After learning about how it’s possible that Alzheimer’s disease could be developed through medical contaminations, what are some improvements you think should be made in medical settings that could prevent future situations similar to this?

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