2023-10-26| R&D

New Study Reveals Fungal Link to Alzheimer’s Disease Development

by Sinead Huang
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A recent study led by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine has shed light on the potential link between the fungus Candida albicans and the development of Alzheimer’s disease. While prior research had hinted at a connection between fungi and chronic neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s, there was limited understanding of how these common microbes might be involved in the disease’s development.

Related article: GSK Bets $593 Million To License Scynexis’ Oral Antifungal

The Intricate Mechanisms Unveiled

The research, published in the journal Cell Reports, delves into the mechanisms through which Candida albicans enters the brain, activates two distinct processes in brain cells that facilitate its removal, and generates toxic protein fragments similar to amyloid beta (Aβ), which plays a central role in Alzheimer’s disease development. 

The study’s first discovery was how Candida albicans access the brain. It was found that the fungus produces enzymes called secreted aspartic proteases (Saps), which break down the blood-brain barrier. This breach allows the fungus to enter the brain, where it causes damage. 

Mechanisms for Fungal Clearance and Future Implications

The researchers also explored how the brain effectively clears the fungus. The study revealed that two mechanisms are triggered by Candida albicans in brain cells known as microglia. These mechanisms, initiated by the fungus, enable the brain to clear the infection. Dr. Corry stated, “This work potentially contributes to an important new piece of the puzzle regarding the development of Alzheimer’s disease.”

The study findings suggest that the toxic Aβ-like peptides characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease could originate from sources other than the brain itself. This includes the common fungus Candida albicans, which has been detected in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. Dr. Corry commented on the implications, “We propose that the brain Ab-peptide aggregates that characterize multiple Candida-associated neurodegenerative conditions may be generated both intrinsically by the brain and by C. albicans.”

The study’s results have opened up new avenues for research into the role of Candida albicans in Alzheimer’s disease development and the potential for innovative therapeutic strategies. The study was conducted using animal models and provides an essential foundation for further investigations into the human aspect of this connection.

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