On the Horizon: Cures to Alzheimer’s and Autism?

I normally would not write on scientific research. That seems miles away from a blog post about healthy travel. But two major discoveries in medicine I read this week were simply too compelling not to share. For the first time, in two separate studies, researchers have apparently found the causes of Alzheimer’s Disease and Autism. Once there is discovery, there can be a path to a cure. And that is huge.

In one study, Neuroscience News reported that a worldwide team of senior scientists and clinicians have published a report concluding that certain microbes — a specific virus and two specific types of bacteria — could be major causes of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Their paper, which published online in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, a highly-regarded, peer-reviewed journal, stresses the urgent need for further research — and more importantly, for clinical trials of anti-microbial and related agents to treat the disease.

This major call for action is based on substantial published evidence into Alzheimer’s. The team’s landmark editorial summarizes the abundant data implicating these microbes. However this work has been largely ignored or dismissed as controversial, despite the absence of evidence to the contrary. Until now, proposals for the funding of clinical trials have been refused, in even though over 400 unsuccessful clinical trials for Alzheimer’s based on other concepts carried out over a 10-year period.

 Image credit: University of Manchester

Image credit: University of Manchester

One of the authors, Professor Douglas Kell of the University of Manchester’s School of Chemistry and Manchester Institute of Biotechnology in the United Kingdom explained that supposedly sterile red blood cells were seen to contain dormant microbes, which also has implications for blood transfusions.

“We are saying there is incontrovertible evidence that Alzheimer’s Disease has a dormant microbial component, and that this can be awakened by iron dysregulation. Removing this iron will slow down or prevent cognitive degeneration and we can’t keep ignoring all of the evidence,” he said.

Their findings could also have implications for the future treatment of Parkinson’s Disease and other progressive neurological conditions.

In another study by Harvard Medical School Professor Huh Juy-Ryelo and his wife, professor Gloria Choi of MIT identified that certain bacteria in the mother’s digestive tract can lead to having an autistic child. They also found the exact brain location linked to autistic behaviors, which can be used to find a cure for Autism.

 Professors Professor Huh Juy-Ryelo, Harvard Medical School and Gloria Choi, MIT. Image credit: The Korea Daily

Professors Professor Huh Juy-Ryelo, Harvard Medical School and Gloria Choi, MIT. Image credit: The Korea Daily

In laboratory studies conducted on mice, the researchers found out that certain bacteria in a mother’s digestive tract can develop immune cells that directly influence the baby’s brain cell development. When the researchers removed the bacteria with antibiotics, the mouse produced normal offspring.

The results of both studies are truly promising. We are learning that the proper management of iron intake in the diet can have a dramatic effect on hereditary conditions such as hemochromatosis, anemia, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. And understanding the impact of bacteria in our bodies may be the key to the prevention of anything from ulcers to Alzheimer’s to Autism.

As researchers gain a better understanding of the causes behind such problems and how our genetic predisposition, as well as lifestyle choices such as diet, can contribute to the cause or prevention of these medical conditions, we can proactively test for their presence and do something about them. Could it be something as simple as dietary or nutritional choices, health testing, and if necessary, simple medicines that can dramatically reverse such debilitating conditions? Only time will tell. But these discoveries can help lead to cures and prevention. That’s a significant advance.

All too often, the day’s headlines can lead us to believe that the world is a terrible place. I beg to differ. When I read of the discoveries like these, I become encouraged. Call me an optimist, but I think we’re on the cusp of some fundamental advances in preventive medicine. To me, that is not just a healthy trek. It’s a big leap ahead.

About the Author
Brian Teeter is author and publisher of the Healthy Trekking travel guidebooks.  Become a smarter traveler by reading his new book, 300 Healthy Travel Tips available on Amazon and Apple iBooks.