Immune system in the brain contributes to Alzheimer’s

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By Philip Tubby | Wednesday 20 December 2017

Researchers in Germany have scrutinized the molecular interplay between the immune system in the brain and the build-up of the hallmark Alzheimer’s protein, amyloid. They found that the activation of the immune system in the brain contributes to the build up of amyloid protein, suggesting this could be tackled by potential new Alzheimer’s treatments. The findings are published today in Nature.

Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“Researchers are building a picture of the precise interplay between the immune system and the brain, and this new study adds an important piece to this puzzle. By using a sophisticated combination of experiments, these researchers have examined the molecular players linking the immune system and the build-up of amyloid protein from all angles, implicating molecules called ASC specks and a molecular machine called the NLRP3 inflammasome.

“Research like this is crucial for identifying new avenues to explore in the hunt for new treatments that can slow or halt damaging changes in the brain, and drugs that act against the immune system have real potential to limit damage in Alzheimer’s disease. A team of researchers based at the University of Manchester, supported by Alzheimer’s Research UK, is designing drugs to target the NLRP3 inflammasome that, if successful, could pave the way to new, life-changing treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

“There are many hurdles along the road to new treatments for dementia, and findings like these are many years off benefitting people living with dementia. It is encouraging to see the gathering pace of dementia research, but we need increased investment in this area of research if we hope to deliver the effective treatments we so desperately need.”


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Philip Tubby