Around 5.5 million people in the US suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease. Now, research has found that reducing the body’s inflammatory response may help prevent memory loss associated with both Down’s Syndrome and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Inflammation is a normal part of the body’s immune response to neutralize pathogens and toxins. Once neutralized, the body releases other molecules known as Resolvin E1 (RvE1) to subside the body’s inflammatory response. However, when this fails, chronic inflammation happens- something that worsens conditions such as heart disease, asthma and Alzheimer’s Disease.
As almost 80% of people with Down Syndrome develop Alzheimer’s by the age of 60 seemingly due to increasing levels of inflammation in the brain, researchers from the University of South Carolina decided to see whether artificial supplements of RvE1 could reduce chronic inflammation, and thus reduce memory loss in individuals with Down Syndrome.
To do so, they inserted tiny pumps under the skin of mice with Down syndrome that steadily released a saline solution laced with RvE1 into their blood streams over a period of 4 weeks. To measure their results, they maintained a control group, also with Down syndrome, who were similarly implanted with a pump, but only received a saline solution.
In the end, behavioral tests conducted on the mice found that those dosed with RvE1 experienced significantly less memory loss than those in the control group. Blood tests also revealed that the mice injected with RvE1 also had significantly lower levels of cytokines, molecules that typically signify inflammation. More than this, they found that inflammatory immune cells known as microglia were significantly less active in the mice’s hippocampi, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
Hoping that their findings may inform future therapeutics capable of staving off memory loss from both Alzheimer’s Disease and Down Syndrome, the researchers have nevertheless warned that their research has limitations. To begin, as it was carried out on mice and not humans, their findings may be irreflective of the human brain. Furthermore, the mice in the study did not have protein build-ups in their brains, a possible cause of chronic inflammation, although these are present in humans with Alzheimer’s.