MAY 11, 2016 7:00 AM PDT

Could the brain's immune system fight Alzheimer's?

The brain’s immune system potentially could be harnessed to help clear amyloid plaques, which are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
 
"While we still need to fully understand the complexity and potential unintended consequences of this approach, it is clear that microglia play an important role in the removal of amyloid beta from the brain and may represent a novel approach to treating this disease," says M. Kerry O'Banion.

“This research confirms earlier observations that, when activated to fight inflammation, the brain’s immune system plays a role in the removal of amyloid beta,” says M. Kerry O’Banion, professor in the neurobiology and anatomy department at the University of Rochester.

“We have also demonstrated that the immune system can be manipulated in a manner that accelerates this process, potentially pointing to a new therapeutic approach to Alzheimer’s disease.”

Published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation, the findings are the culmination of years of investigation triggered when researchers made a surprising discovery while studying mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease.  They observed that amyloid beta plaques were being cleared in animals with chronic brain inflammation.

At the time, the mechanism by which the plaques were being removed was not clear.

Researchers eventually set their sights on microglia, native cells that serve as one of the central nervous system’s first lines of defense against infection and injury. Microglia are present throughout the brain and spinal cord, are constantly monitoring their environment, and can be switched on or activated to perform different functions including control inflammation, destroy pathogens, clean up the debris from dead or damaged cells, and seal off the site of an injury.

The researchers conducted a series of experiments to see if they could replicate the phenomenon of amyloid beta clearance absent brain inflammation. To do so, they had to “trick” the microglia into action by injecting a specific protein molecule, a cytokine, into the brain. Cytokines play important roles in cell signaling and the researchers were able to replicate the mechanisms that instruct the microglia to activate an anti-inflammatory response.

Once the microglia were mobilized in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease, the researchers observed a more than 60 percent reduction in amyloid beta in the brain.

“While we still need to fully understand the complexity and potential unintended consequences of this approach, it is clear that microglia play an important role in the removal of amyloid beta from the brain and may represent a novel approach to treating this disease,” O’Banion says.

Other researches from the University of Rochester and from Boston University are coauthors of the study. The National Institute of Aging supported the work.

Source: University of Rochester

This article was originally posted on futurity.org.
About the Author
  • Futurity features the latest discoveries by scientists at top research universities in the US, UK, Canada, Europe, Asia, and Australia. The nonprofit site, which launched in 2009, is supported solely by its university partners (listed below) in an effort to share research news directly with the public.
You May Also Like
NOV 12, 2019
Immunology
NOV 12, 2019
Allergy Shots May Work for Kids with Pollen Food Allergy Syndrome
It’s not common for young children to develop pollen food allergy syndrome (PFAS), but for those that do, there’s not too much parents can do o...
NOV 27, 2019
Immunology
NOV 27, 2019
Playing "Tag" with the Immune System
Human cells employ an intricate tagging system to manage protein activity in the body. By “tagging” a protein with a certain modification, cell...
DEC 16, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
DEC 16, 2019
Drug Targets Against The Nipah Virus
The Nipah virus, first identified in 1998 and is transmitted from pigs and bats, has resulted in a high mortality rate killing more than half of all infect...
JAN 16, 2020
Health & Medicine
JAN 16, 2020
Babies in Africa Receive World's First Malaria Vaccine
Would you accept a vaccine that was only 40% effective? For those at risk of malaria, the answer is likely a resounding, "yes!" According to the...
JAN 24, 2020
Immunology
JAN 24, 2020
Immune "Recycling" Could Improve Cancer Immunotherapy
A natural housekeeping function performed by many cells of the human body, including those in the immune system, is under intense scrutiny for its potentia...
MAR 31, 2020
Health & Medicine
MAR 31, 2020
20 Facts About the Placenta - A Lifeline Between a Mother and Her Baby
The placenta is the lifeline that connects the mother and her baby. It is a multi-functiona organ that is responsible for supporting all the growing needs of the fetus. It has different role...
Loading Comments...