Inflammation in the brain may trigger Alzheimer's

Thursday, 11 January, 2018

Inflammation in the brain may trigger Alzheimer's

New research has found that inflammation in the brain may trigger Alzheimer’s disease, and that an anti-inflammatory solution may stop it in its tracks. 

The study, published in the journal Nature, has found that inflammatory cues may trigger the build-up of amyloid-β protein plaques in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, and that understanding this classic disease hallmark could help efforts to develop new therapies for this neurodegenerative disorder.

In people with Alzheimer’s disease, aggregates of amyloid-β protein build up in the brain to form plaques, leading to cell damage and memory loss. Inflammation is thought to have a role, but the exact nature of its involvement has been hard to pin down.

Researchers from the University of Bonn, Germany, found that inflammatory cues trigger immune cells in the central nervous system to release specks of a protein called ASC, which binds to the amyloid-β protein and causes clusters of it to build up in the brain. This may also occur in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, the authors speculate.

They found that using an antibody to prevent ASC from binding to amyloid-β reduces the formation of amyloid-like aggregates. Given trials of Alzheimer’s therapies have all failed thus far, this finding suggests therapies targeting this mechanism could be clinically useful.

“This is an extremely important paper for the Alzheimer’s field and is likely to greatly influence the way researchers think about potential Alzheimer’s treatment strategies going forward,” said Professor Bryce Vissel from the University of Technology, Sydney.

“The development of new treatments that slow or block Alzheimer’s disease has been elusive, despite decades of research worldwide. This comprehensive and elegant study provides strong evidence in support of a possible new disease mechanism and a new approach for treating Alzheimer’s disease.”

Professor Vissel said that dementia is the second leading cause of death of Australians, contributing to 5.4% of all deaths in males and 10.6% of all deaths in females each year, with Alzheimer’s being the most common form of dementia.

Key facts:

  • Currently around 244 people each day are joining the population with dementia in Australia, with new cases expected to increase to 318 people per day by 2025, and over 650 people per day by 2056.
  • Worldwide, there are more than 46.8 million people with dementia today and 131.5 million predicted by 2050.
  • If dementia were a country, it would be the world’s 18th largest economy.

Image credit: © Danti

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