New research suggests that an immune system protein could help to reverse some of the brain changes that lead to Alzheimer’s Disease.
Finding a treatment for dementia is an ongoing challenge, but scientists are particularly excited after discovering that a protein in the immune system that acts as a chemical signal for immune cells could reduce the amount of amyloid – the clumps of sticky protein that cause damage in the brain. Amyloid plaques have been linked to an increased risk of dementia.
Researchers from the University of Glasgow and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, discovered that protein IL-33 reduced the amount of amyloid in the brains of mice that showed symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s. The mice also showed improvements in memory.
Dr James Pickett, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Society, said:
‘We know that inflammation plays a key role in the development of dementia and some genetic studies have suggested a link between this protein and the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
‘Here, the researchers have shown that the protein can lead to short-term improvements in memory and reductions in the amount of amyloid in the brains of mice with symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease. They suggest that the protein can switch the function of the immune cells in the brain. Instead of causing harmful inflammation, the immune cells seek out and destroy the toxic amyloid plaques caused by Alzheimer’s disease. It’s still early days for this line of research and we will need to see if similar mechanisms occur in people as in mice.’