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Herpes Simplex and Alzheimer’s Disease Linked to Single Gen

s that are affected by Alzheimer's, compared to Alzheimer's patients who also have herpes but who have a different form of the ApoE gene. And she has shown that people with the ApoE-4 version of the gene who are infected with herpes are more likely to get Alzheimer's disease than people infected with herpes who have a different form of the ApoE gene, or than people who have the ApoE-4 gene but who don't have herpes.

Other scientists have found that a herpes infection is active more often – causing the tell-tale cold sores around the mouth – in the 25 percent of people who have a copy of the ApoE-4 gene. In other words, people who are frequently troubled by cold sores are more likely to have the gene that makes them more vulnerable to Alzheimer's disease.

Cold sores that come and go are the outward sign of the two different phases of the virus's life cycle. Herpes simplex is a chronic infection that lives in a person for a lifetime, periodically flaring up in a "lytic" phase where it causes cell damage, then retreating and seeking safe harbor within the body's nerves in a "latent" phase. The virus spends most of its time in the latent phase, sequestered in cells, not active and not replicating. But occasionally, when triggered by factors like stress, fatigue, certain foods, or even sunlight, the virus becomes active, traveling from its hiding places in the nervous system to cells around the mouth, damaging cells and causing cold sores.

It was this cycle of activity and latency that Miller and Federoff focused on while looking at the brain cells of mice with different forms of the ApoE gene. They looked at four groups of mice: Some had ApoE-3, which is what the majority of people carry; some had ApoE-4, which in people makes them more likely to get Alzheimer's; some had ApoE-2, which makes people less likely to get the disease; and some had no ApoE gene at all.

The team found that the virus infiltrates brain cells about the same no
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