Link Between “Ancient Immune System” and Alzheimer’s?
A recent NPR article has detailed an interview with Drs. Robert Moir and Rudolph Tanzi, who both work at Massachusetts General Hospital, a large teaching hospital affiliated with Harvard University. These professors were enjoying some beers and having a conversation when they began linking together the amyloid plaques, which are responsible for the death of brain cells in Alzheimer’s, and molecules known as “antimicrobial peptides.” These molecules are part of many organisms’ immune system and have been present for ages, and they are essential to our continued existence.
Moir, one of the neuroscientists, found striking similarities between one of these molecules, called LL-37, and the amyloid plaques that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease. As a result of this similarity, the researchers were led to ask: Are the amyloid plaques found in Alzheimer’s disease one of these molecules that form part of our immune system? That is to say, the brain could be producing these amyloid proteins as a form of self-defense, until it starts producing too much, which can lead to forms of dementia, like Alzheimer’s. The question then becomes, why would the brain produce too much to the point of self-destruction? Perhaps there are bacteria or viruses that make their way to the brain or the system could go awry and attack itelf.
Although there is much research to be done to see how exactly all of this works out, Moir and Tanzi’s hypothesis is gaining acceptance in the scientific community. This is just one first, and potentially revolutionary, step into a new way to understand Alzheimer’s. Research that can give us insights into prevention as opposed to just treatment is crucial. For the time being, finding better and more efficient treatments is equally important. Hopefully, we can advance to a point where we understand the cause of Alzheimer’s to develop preventative measures for future populations.
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 Source: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/02/18/580475245/scientists-explore-ties-between-alzheimers-and-brains-ancient-immune-system
 Source: Ibid.
 Source: Ibid.