Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Popular Alzheimer's theory may be false trail

17.06.2009
The idea that anti-inflammatory drugs might protect people struggling with dementia from Alzheimer's disease has received a blow with the online release of a study of human brain tissue in Acta Neuropathologica.

Researchers with the McKnight Brain Institute of the University of Florida, in collaboration with scientists at the University of Frankfurt, Germany, discovered that inflammation of microglia -- an abundant cell type that plays an important supporting role in the brain -- does not appear to be associated with dementia in Alzheimer's disease.

The finding supports recent clinical trial results that indicate anti-inflammatory drugs are not effective at fighting dementia in patients with Alzheimer's disease, which affects about 5.3 million Americans.

"For almost 20 years now, it's been claimed that brain inflammation contributes to the development of Alzheimer's disease dementia, and based on that claim, numerous clinical trials with anti-inflammatory drugs have been conducted. They have been unsuccessful," said Wolfgang Streit, a professor of neuroscience at the College of Medicine. "In the current paper we have shown that the brain's immune system, made up of microglia, is not activated in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, as would be the case if there were inflammation. Instead, microglia are degenerating. We claim that a loss of microglial cells contributes to the loss of neurons, and thus to the development of dementia."

Microglial cells are a subset of a very large population of brain cells known as glial cells. Neurons are the workhorse cells of the brain, enabling thought and movement, but glia are their faithful sidekicks, providing physical and nutritional support.

Glial cells, which outnumber neurons 10-to-1, are at the heart of a popular explanation for Alzheimer's disease that suggests protein fragments called beta amyloid -- Abeta for short -- clump together in the spaces between brain cells, causing memory loss and dementia. Inflammation theories suggest that microglia become "activated" and mount an immune response to these protein clumps, and instead of being helpful, a toxic release of chemicals occurs, worsening the disease effects.

However, Streit's high-resolution observations did not find evidence that Abeta activates, or inflames, human microglia cells. Nor did researchers find evidence that inflammation is to blame for brain cell death.

"This paper potentially represents a paradigm shift in the way we look at Alzheimer's disease," said Mark A. Smith, a professor of pathology at Case Western Reserve University and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. "The study goes against the very popular idea of neuro-inflammation; instead, the idea that microglia are senescent is consistent with a number of features of the disease.

"The research makes a very good case that these cells are subject to aging," said Smith, who did not participate in the study. "These cells were thought to be activated (against Alzheimer's), but this paper makes a strong case that they are not. The study has taken a novel approach that has led to a novel insight."

Using a commercially available antibody, Streit for the first time created a marker for microglial cells in human brain specimens that had been in chemical storage. The specimens were from 19 people with varying degrees of Alzheimer's, ranging from severe to none at all. Two of the samples were from Down syndrome patients, who are known to develop Alzheimer's pathology in middle age.

When researchers examined these cells alongside neurons under a high-resolution microscope, they found that -- unless an infection had occurred elsewhere in the body -- microglial cells from Alzheimer's patients were not distinctly larger or unusually shaped, which would have been the case had they been inflamed.

"What I expected to see is activated microglia right next to dying neurons," Streit said. "That is what I did not find. What I propose is glia are dying, and the neurons lose support. We now need to find out what caused glia to degenerate. Rather than trying to find ways to inhibit microglia with anti-inflammatory drugs, we need to find ways to keep them alive and strong. It's a whole new field."

The microglial cells had a tangled, fragmented appearance, similar to neurons in the throes of Alzheimer's disease or -- old age.

"These cells are breaking into pieces," said Streit, who collaborated with Alzheimer's researcher Dr. Heiko Braak, of the Institute for Clinical Neuroanatomy in Frankfurt. "They are on their way out. For the first time, we are proving that microglial cells are subject to aging and may undergo degeneration, and that the loss of these cells precedes the loss of neurons. Research has been so focused on finding activated microglia, no one considered that these cells were degenerating and neurons lost support."

The work was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the German Research Council and the Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute.

Alzheimer's disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and the fifth leading cause of death for Americans 65 and older, according to the Alzheimer's Association. The association estimates Alzheimer's and other dementias cost Medicare, Medicaid and businesses a total of $148 billion annually.

April Frawley Birdwell | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ufl.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator
23.02.2018 | University of Turku

nachricht Minimising risks of transplants
22.02.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Attoseconds break into atomic interior

A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.

In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Basque researchers turn light upside down

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator

23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Attoseconds break into atomic interior

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>