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 NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures
17.11.2017 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

nachricht High speed video recording precisely measures blood cell velocity
15.11.2017 | ITMO University

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: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Antarctic landscape insights keep ice loss forecasts on the radar

20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Filling the gap: High-latitude volcanic eruptions also have global impact

20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Water world

20.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>