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Can You Catch Alzheimer’s from Growth Hormones?

Brain damage found in autopsies of patients with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease acquired from growth hormone injections is strikingly similar to the damage done by Alzheimer’s disease.

Compiled by the Australian Science Media Centre

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“This study is extraordinary as it suggests that pituitary glands of humans used to make the human growth hormone contained seeds that caused the amyloid beta pathology observed. This matters enormously as it raises the possibility that other routes of transmission, including surgical instrument use and blood transfusion, could be relevant to the transmission of Alzheimer’s disease, cerebral amyloid angiopathy and other neurodegenerative diseases. There however continues to be great controversy around the mechanisms that cause Alzheimer’s disease and so the current study will be yet another one that adds to the challenging and important ongoing debate.”

Dr Bryce Vissel is the Roth Fellow Head of Neurodegeneration Diseases Research Laboratory at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research.


“While the findings of this study might imply that Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is transmitted following treatment of prion-contaminated human growth hormone, it should be recognised that this study is a relatively small observational study and thus does not show cause and effect. These findings do not allow for a definite conclusion that there is human transmission in AD. Further work is required to determine the significance of these findings and to explore other explanations, such as whether the AD pathology is a secondary effect of prion-contaminated...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.