12 April 2017
To investigate a potential relationship between herpes simplex virus infection and Alzheimer’s disease-related neuropathology, Eloise Mikkonen from the University of Tampere, Finland, was part of a collaborative project with researchers from Umeå University, Sweden. The project involved testing brain tissue samples from the Tampere autopsy study (TASTY) tissue collection for the presence of herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1 and 2 by a range of PCR tests, and for indicators of Alzheimer’s disease – senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. A Travelling Fellowship from Disease Models & Mechanisms allowed Eloise to visit the Department of Clinical Microbiology at Umeå University, where she met with Prof Fredrik Elgh, Jan Olsson, Dr Hugo Lövheim and Emma Honkala to share additional samples and to go over results and future prospects for their project. From initial promising results, Eloise and the Elgh lab team planned further experiments, including the analysis of plasma samples from the TASTY cohort to confirm the presence of virus in the blood, and to identify primary HSV infection status versus chronic infection. Additional plans included an investigation into the connection between HSV infection and Alzheimer’s disease in a replicative study cohort, the Tampere Sudden Death Series, and to look in more detail at tissue region differences in virus prevalence. Eloise and her supervisor at the University of Tampere and her collaborators in the Elgh lab in Umeå University have published a paper on their preliminary findings in Disease Models & Mechanisms (Olsson et al., 2016). Eloise reflects that her Travelling Fellowship from The Company of Biologists was a fantastic opportunity to meet with her collaborators in person and looks forward to continued collaboration on this ongoing project.