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Acta Neuropathol. 2014 Oct;128(4):463-76. doi: 10.1007/s00401-014-1324-9. Epub 2014 Jul 30.

Is there a risk of prion-like disease transmission by Alzheimer- or Parkinson-associated protein particles?

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Robert Koch-Institut, Nordufer 20, 13353, Berlin, Germany,


The misfolding and aggregation of endogenous proteins in the central nervous system is a neuropathological hallmark of Alzheimer's disease (AD), Parkinson's disease (PD), as well as prion diseases. A molecular mechanism referred to as "nucleation-dependent aggregation" is thought to underlie this neuropathological phenomenon. According to this concept, disease-associated protein particles act as nuclei, or seeds, that recruit cellular proteins and incorporate them, in a misfolded form, into their growing aggregate structure. Experimental studies have shown that the aggregation of the AD-associated proteins amyloid-β (Aβ) and tau, and of the PD-associated protein α-synuclein, can be stimulated in laboratory animal models by intracerebral (i.c.) injection of inocula containing aggregated species of the respective proteins. This has raised the question of whether AD or PD can be transmitted, like certain human prion diseases, between individuals by self-propagating protein particles potentially present on medical instruments or in blood or blood products. While the i.c. injection of inocula containing AD- or PD-associated protein aggregates was found to cause neuronal damage and clinical abnormalities (e.g., motor impairments) in some animal models, none of the studies published so far provided evidence for a transmission of severe or even fatal disease. In addition, available epidemiological data do not indicate a transmissibility of AD or PD between humans. The findings published so far on the effects of experimentally transmitted AD- or PD-associated protein seeds do not suggest specific precautionary measures in the context of hemotherapy, but call for vigilance in transfusion medicine and other medical areas.

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