A new study led by the scientists from Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in San Diego, suggests that Alzheimer’s is a genetic disease. However in nearly all the cases it’s not inherited, rather, it arises during a patient’s lifetime by genetic rearrangements in neurons. The genetic rearranging isn’t random mutation, but a process that recombines DNA into different patterns. This reshuffling creates a mosaic of slightly differing cells. A similar process is used by the immune system of the body to make antibodies.
“Confirmation of the findings are required,” said Dr. Jerold Chun, the lead author. But Chun says testing with the HIV drugs should begin immediately..
The study links the cause of the disease to the genetic rearrangements. According to the researchers, locking the reshuffling should block Alzheimer’s. The reshuffling can be compared to a copy-and-paste function in affected neurons. But instead of making an exact copy, the process scrambles DNA segments, and then reinserts them back into the neuron’s genome.
With reverse transcriptase, HIV copies its genome into the genome of infected cells. Since it becomes part of the cell’s DNA, it is very hard for the immune system to reach. Reverse transcriptase inhibitors, a regular part of HIV therapy, can block this process.
However, whether HIV’s reverse transcriptase is similar to that of Alzheimer’s, isn’t known, according to Chun.