Until recently, scientists thought Alzheimer’s disease disturbed the immune system — but a new study of mice adds to mounting evidence that it could be inflammation in the brain that drives Alzheimer’s. It suggests blocking a protein that regulates immune cells could be a way to stop the brain-wasting disease.
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The new study suggests blocking a protein that regulates immune cells in the brain could be a way to stop progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
The study — led by the University of Southampton in the UK — is to be published in the journal Brain.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that, together with other forms of dementia, affects 47.5 million people worldwide and gives rise to 7.7 million new cases a year.
Dementia is a syndrome that affects memory, thinking and behavior and gradually reduces people’s ability to have a normal life and take care of themselves. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and likely contributes to 60–70% of cases.
The team behind the new study hopes the findings will lead to a drug that halts Alzheimer’s — a disease for which there is currently no cure and no treatments that stop or slow down its progress in the brain.
For their research, they compared brain tissue samples from healthy people with those of people of the same age with Alzheimer’s. They were particularly interested in differences in the numbers of microglia — a type of cell that, among other things, helps regulate immune responses like inflammation.
The team found that the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease had more microglia than the brains of the healthy subjects. They also found that the molecules that regulate the cells appeared to be more active where the disease was more severe.
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