A new study in the Science Advances journal suggests a link between Alzheimer’s and gum disease. It points at Porphyromonas gingivalis, a bacterium in the mouth, for being responsible for gum disease.
According to Stephen Dominy, the co-author of the study and co-founder of the pharmaceutical company Cortyexyme, although previous research suggests a link between mouth bacteria and Alzheimer’s, the evidence of causation is not convincing enough.
This time, Dominy, together with Casey Lynch, also the co-founder of Cortexyme, discovered that P. gingivalis can migrate from the mouth to the brain. The team looked at mice infected with the mouth bacteria and found that the infectious agent eventually goes into the brain.
The bacteria also secrete a toxic protein called gingipain. This can destroy the brain’s neurons. P. gingivalis can also boost the production of amyloid beta. Amyloid beta is a component of brain plaque which has associations with the neurodegenerative disease.
Aside from strengthening the link between Alzheimer’s and gum disease, the study also kindles hope for treatments against the neurodegenerative disease through COR388. In fact, some believe that this compound is the most effective inhibitor of gingipain.
COR388 was found to lower the presence of P. gingivalis by disrupting gingipains. With the reduction of gingipains, inflammation also reduces in response. Thus, amyloid beta in the brain additionally reduces or eliminates completely. It also helps preserve the neurons of the hippocampus which is responsible for memory. It is also the part of the brain which deteriorates over time as the neurodegenerative disease progresses.
Currently, COR388 has passed the initial safety test in humans. Cortexyme plans to move on to the second and third phases of the trials in the future.