Scientists have identified a molecular chain of events thought to drive inflammation during Alzheimer’s, and shown that blocking this cascade could reduce signs of the disease in mice. The findings are published in the journal Nature.
The study, a collaborative effort between scientists in Germany, Spain and the US, focused on the growing evidence for the role of inflammation in Alzheimer’s disease. The team studied a group of proteins known to trigger inflammation, some of which have already been linked to rheumatoid arthritis.
One of the proteins, called caspase-1, was found to be more active in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s, suggesting it could play a role in the development of the disease. The researchers set out to study this protein in more detail, along with a second inflammatory protein called NLRP3. To do this, the team bred mice to show features of Alzheimer’s, including the build-up of the hallmark Alzheimer’s protein, amyloid. The scientists also bred mice to lack either caspase-1 or NLRP3, to help them understand what role both proteins may play in the development of the disease.
The researchers compared the performance of the mice on memory tasks and found that those that lacked either caspase-1 or NLRP3 appeared protected from the memory problems normally associated with features of Alzheimer’s. Blocking the action of the two proteins also led to lower levels of amyloid in the brains of the mice.
Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“Recent research has highlighted inflammation as a key process in the development of Alzheimer’s disease and this study adds further support to this. The findings are still at an early stage, but it is only by unravelling these molecular details that will we will understand how inflammation could contribute to Alzheimer’s and how this damage may be stopped.
“More research is needed to build on these findings, but with a growing body of support, research into inflammation in Alzheimer’s is an important area for the future. We need to see long-term commitment to dementia research to ensure that new areas of research get the investment they need, to take us closer to finding answers for the hundreds of thousands affected by these devastating diseases.”
This material has been published with the kind permission of Alzheimer Research UK.
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