Find Answers to the Most Common Questions About Brain Health
What are prions?
Prions are small virus-like particles within the body made up only of misfolded forms of normal proteins. Prions have the unique ability to grow and replicate within the body by incorporating normal brain proteins, causing them to misfold as they are incorporated into the growing Prion particle.
Prions are best known by the general public for being the cause of mad cow disease in cattle and scrapie in sheep. More recently, misfolded proteins have been found in the brain of patients with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other progressive neurodegenerative diseases. These misfolded proteins can be detected in both spinal fluid and blood as small soluble particles similar to the Prions in Mad Cow Disease. The Prions in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are also related in structure to large insoluble protein clumps of misfolded proteins referred to as plaque, tangles and Lewy Bodies in brains from patients with these diseases.
Prions do not appear to spread from person to person by either normal or even intimate contact. The only documented transmission of Prions is by eating contaminated tissues, blood transfusion, or use of contaminated surgical instruments.
I have heard about prions in association with Mad Cow Disease and that these prions can be transmitted from cows to people. Should I be concerned about possible transmission of prions from Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s patients?
There is no epidemiological evidence of any transmission between people with either Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. Even the most infectious prions such as those associated with Mad Cow Disease actually show very low transmissibility. In the case of Mad Cow Disease, you literally have to eat large amounts of infected tissues, or have brain surgery with contaminated instruments, or share a large blood transfusion. There is no evidence whatsoever of transmission of prions through even intimate personal contact with infected people. In addition, prions in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s appear to be much less transmissible than in Mad Cow Disease, so there is no reasonable chance of transmission from skin, fluids or respiratory channels.
What happens if I test positive for one or more prion proteins?
The goal for these individuals is to slow down the rate of progression through various interventions chosen by YOU and your physician in tandem. These may include lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise, meditation, as well as medical interventions with new drugs as they become available. Check out our Resource Center for more information on preventive care.
To learn more watch our video: How to Interpret Positive Results.
What if I had been told that I have a genetic pre-disposition to Alzheimer’s?
There is some evidence to support a link between one or more copies of the apoE4 gene with increased risk for Alzheimer’s. Amprion’s test has the potential to detect the extent to which this genetic link has resulted in increased level of misfolded prion proteins on an ongoing basis as the brain ages.
To learn more watch our video: ApoE4 The Gene’s Link to Alzheimer’s
What if I am having memory problems, but my test is negative?
Amprion’s technology may also demonstrate in some people that the early onset of memory problems are not associated with a high level of prion-proteins and therefore less likely to deteriorate rapidly, thus relieving unnecessary stress and facilitating a search for other causes.
To learn more watch our video: How to Interpret Negative Results
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