Scientific Frontline (November 15, 2009): Protein Changes in Heart Strengthen Link Between Alzheimer's Disease and Chronic Heart Failure

Publication Date: 
Sun, 11/15/2009

A team of US, Canadian and Italian scientists led by researchers at Johns Hopkins report evidence from studies in animals and humans supporting a link between Alzheimer's disease and chronic heart failure, two of the 10 leading causes of death in the United States.

The international team of biochemists and cardiologists say they have identified three changes in the chemical make-up of a key structural protein, called desmin, in heart muscle cells in dogs. The changes led to the formation of debris-like protien clusters, or amyloid-like oligomers containing desmin, in heart muscle, similar to the amyloid plaques seen in the brain tissues of Alzheimer's patients. The protein alterations, which were reversed by surgically repairing the heart, occurred at the onset of heart failure. Further experiments by the Hopkins scientist found the same chemical modifications to desmin in the heart muscle in four people already diagnosed with the disease.