The protein that exists in the part of the gums that surrounds the teeth, known as the gingival epithelium, could have antibacterial properties. This may play a significant role in helping to prevent Alzheimer’s. The protein is there to make the gum adhere to the tooth and make sure an excess of bacteria does not pass through the two structures. It has been known for some time now that a build-up of bacteria can cause a certain oral infection that leads to gum disease, P. gingivalis.
This bacterial infection has been linked to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Because the anti-bacterial protein, called SCPPPQ, has shown to be effective in preventing the build-up of this bacterium, it could mean that it would also be effective at prevent Alzheimer’s too.
Antonio Nanci, from University of Montreal, was lead researcher in the study.
He said: “The antibacterial potential of the SCPPPQ1 protein could be exploited not only to limit periodontal disease but also as a treatment approach to check the effects of bacteria in the brain or at other sites to which they spread.”
Periodontal diseases are usually the result of infections and inflammation of the gums and bones surrounding and supporting the teeth.
Usually called gingivitis in its early stage, when it becomes more serious, it is referred to as periodontitis.
Prof Nanci said: “The teeth are the only place where the integral envelope of the human body is penetrated, so they are a critical location for the entry of bacteria.
“As we have known for some years, oral infection by P. gingivalis is one of the major risk factors for the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
“So because SCPPPQ1 may slow the growth of this bacterium and even destroy it, we can attack the cause of problems at its source and help prevent more than one disease.”
Charline Mary, a postdoctoral researcher who also took part in the research, said: “This protein might offer an additional strategy for addressing the problem of bacterial resistance.”
Approximately one in six people over the age of 80 have dementia, with Alzheimer’s being the most common form of the disease.
Typical memory problems include forgetting recent events, names, and faces.
Right now, there are around 900,000 people with dementia in the UK.
But this is projected to rise to 1.6 million by 2040.