Im­mune sys­tem linked to Alzheimer’s dis­ease ac­cord­ing to re­search

The China Post - - LIFE -

The im­mune sys­tem may play a part in Alzheimer’s dis­ease, U.S. re­searchers have dis­cov­ered, in a break­through which could lead to the devel­op­ment of new treat­ments for the most com­mon form of de­men­tia.

A Duke Uni­ver­sity study pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Neu­ro­science re­ported that re­searchers had found that cer­tain im­mune sys­tem cells which nor­mally pro­tect the brain be­gan to con­sume a key nu­tri­ent, argi­nine.

In tests on mice, re­searchers were able to block the process with a small-mol­e­cule drug to pre­vent brain plaques and mem­ory loss.

The study found that while the ex­act role of im­mune sys­tem cells was un­clear, the re­search could point to a new po­ten­tial cause of Alzheimer’s while even­tu­ally open­ing a door to a new treat­ment strat­egy.

“If in­deed argi­nine con­sump­tion is so im­por­tant to the dis­ease process, maybe we could block it and re­verse the dis­ease,” said Carol Colton, pro­fes­sor of neu­rol­ogy at the Duke Uni­ver­sity School of Medicine, a se­nior au­thor of the study.

“We see this study open­ing the doors to think­ing about Alzheimer’s in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent way, to break the stale­mate of ideas in Alzheimer’s dis­ease.”

Re­search into the brains of Alzheimer’s suf­fer­ers has typ­i­cally fo­cused on two hall­marks — “plaques” and “tan­gles.”

Plaques are a build-up of sticky pro­teins known as beta amy­loid while tan­gles are a twisted pro­tein called tau.

By study­ing a type of mouse cre­ated sev­eral years ago with a sim­i­lar type of im­mune sys­tem to a hu­man, re­searchers found that im­mune cells called mi­croglia be­gan to divide and change early in the on­set of Alzheimer’s.

Us­ing the drug di­flu­o­romethy­lor­nithine (DFMO) be­fore the on­set of symptoms, sci­en­tists were able to block dam­age caused by arginase, an en­zyme which breaks down argi­nine.

“All of this sug­gests to us that if you can block this lo­cal process of amino acid de­pri­va­tion, then you can pro­tect — the mouse, at least — from Alzheimer’s dis­ease,” said Matthew Kan, one of the re­searchers in­volved in the study.

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