Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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World Oral Health Day Brushing for Brains

Gum disease-causing bacterium implicated in Alzheimer's disease

20 March 2019

Brushing for Brains

Admittedly, this picture of pretty coloured cells may not immediately spur you to brush your teeth, but read on and it just might. The image shows brain cells (yellow and green) and a bacterial toxin (red) in an Alzheimer’s disease afflicted brain. The bacterial culprit is Porphyromonas gingivalis, better known for its role in gum infections. Researchers have discovered that levels of the toxic bacterial proteins are higher in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s than in those of control subjects. Moreover, mice injected with the bacterial proteins were found to suffer neurodegeneration. The good news is, scientists have discovered an inhibitor of the toxin, which, when given to mice, treated P. gingivalis brain infections and prevented brain cell loss. Translating these results into treatments for humans is likely to take time, but meanwhile maintaining good oral hygiene might just help to keep your brain as well your breath fresh.

Today is World Oral Health Day

Written by Ruth Williams

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