Research part-funded by the MRC and published in Nature indicates that the Alzheimer’s disease-associated protein amyloid could have been passed to people treated with human-derived growth hormone in the 1960s and 70s. In this blog post originally published on the Alzheimer’s Research UK blog, Dr Laura Phipps explains the research and what it might mean.
In the news today, we’re hearing about a UK research study that has suggested the hallmark Alzheimer’s protein, amyloid, could have been passed between people in historic treatments with human-derived growth hormone in the 60s and 70s. This is one of the first suggestions that amyloid could pass between humans in a similar way to the prion protein responsible for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). In this blog, we’ll get to grips with the findings and what they might mean.
What did the study show?
Researchers based at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery at Queen Square in London, University College London and the MRC Prion and Clinical Trials Units have been studying people who received human-derived growth hormone taken from deceased people between 1958 and 1985.
Around 1,800 people in the UK received this hormone, often used to treat children with stunted growth. However, around 4% of people in the UK who’d received the injections went onto develop CJD. This was still only 65 people, but more than you’d expect considering only around 1 in every million people in the population develop CJD each year. Researchers at the time concluded that some of the donations had been contaminated with the prion protein responsible for causing the fatal neurodegenerative disease. In response, the use of human-derived growth hormone was stopped and replaced with a synthetic form in 1985. Read more