In a groundbreaking study published in Nature Medicine, researchers have found evidence that growth hormone treatment may trigger Alzheimer’s disease in some patients. This marks the first time a specific medical treatment has been directly linked to the development of this devastating illness.
Previously, Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, was understood to be primarily caused by internal factors like age, genetics, and lifestyle choices. However, this new research suggests that in certain cases, an external factor-cadaver-derived human growth hormone (c-hGH)-can play a crucial role in its development.
The study, conducted by researchers at University College London (UCL), focused on patients who received c-hGH treatment decades ago. This type of growth hormone, no longer used due to safety concerns, has been shown to increase the levels of amyloid-beta protein in the brain. This protein is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, and its accumulation is believed to damage brain cells and lead to cognitive decline.
The lead author of the research, Professor John Collinge, Director of the UCL Institute of Prion Diseases and a consultant neurologist at UCLH, said: “There is no suggestion whatsoever that Alzheimer’s disease can be transmitted between individuals during activities of daily life or routine medical care. The patients we have described were given a specific and long-discontinued medical treatment that involved injecting patients with material now known to have been contaminated with disease-related proteins.
“However, the recognition of the transmission of amyloid-beta pathology in these rare situations should lead us to review measures to prevent accidental transmission via other medical or surgical procedures in order to prevent such cases from occurring in the future.”
“Importantly, our findings also suggest that Alzheimer’s and some other neurological conditions share similar disease processes to CJD, and this may have important implications for understanding and treating Alzheimer’s disease in the future.”
While the study only identified a small number of patients who developed Alzheimer’s after receiving c-hGH, it raises significant concerns about the potential risks associated with certain medical treatments. Further research is needed to confirm these findings and understand the exact mechanisms by which c-hGH might trigger Alzheimer’s.