The Brain’s Immune System May Combat Alzheimer’s

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerDecember 16, 2014

A new study from the Stanford University School of Medicine concluded that Alzheimer’s disease may be prevented and symptoms may even be reversed by boosting and protecting a single cell in the brain called microglia.

Learn more about this groundbreaking study and what it means for the future of Alzheimer’s treatment methods.

Protecting Microglia to Prevent and Reverse Alzheimer’s

Researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine recently published a groundbreaking study that suggests Alzheimer’s can be prevented by boosting the brain’s immune system.

The study, published in the December 8, 2014 issue of The Journal of Clinical Investigation, evaluated the effects of boosting brain immunity and successfully prevented and reversed Alzheimer’s in mice.

The study focused on nerve cells called microglia, which function as garbage disposals, clearing dangerous viruses, deposits and bacteria from the brain. Dr. Katrin Andeasson, professor of neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine described these nerve cells as “beat cops.”

“Microglia are the brain’s beat cops. Our experiments show that keeping them on the right track counters memory loss and preserves healthy brain physiology.”

Microglia composes 10-15% of cells in the brain and when they find anything that does not belong, they release a substance that brings other microglia to fight and destroy the foreign invader. Microglia also rids the brain of dead cells and control inflammation, constantly clearing amyloid-beta, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s.

As people age, a protein called EP2 stops the microglia from operating as efficiently as they once did. Using young mice, researchers observed that those who were genetically engineered to not have an EP2 protein did not develop Alzheimer’s, even after being injected with amyloid-beta. This would suggest that the microglia was able to rid the brain of the amyloid-beta protein on its own. For the mice who did develop Alzheimer’s, memory decline was reversed by blocking EP2.

Encouraging Results for the Future of Alzheimer’s Disease

While many are touting this finding as a “cure” for Alzheimer’s, it is important to note that there is currently no cure for the disease, and it is estimated that Alzheimer’s will reach epidemic proportions by 2050.

This groundbreaking study does provide a glimmer of hope for an effective treatment method, but much more research needs to be done before a cure is found.

The Stanford University School of Medicine hopes to next produce a compound which blocks only EP2, which would prevent unwanted and unnecessary side effects.

How do you feel about the possibility of the brain’s immune system combating Alzheimer’s? Do you think that this discovery could lead to a potential cure of the disease? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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