Blocking brain inflammation 'halts Alzheimer's disease'

Blocking brain inflammation 'halts Alzheimer's disease'

New research has strongly suggested that being able to block brain inflammation could reduce the progression of Alzheimer's disease.

Published in the journal Brain, it found that shutting down a receptor in the brain, which is responsible for regulating immune cells, could stop Alzheimer’s disease from making changes to a person's memory and behaviour.

The study, funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Alzheimer’s Research UK, adds to fairly-new evidence that suggests brain inflammation can actually bolster the development of a disease.

Previously, it was thought that Alzheimer’s disease disturbs the brain’s immune response, but the new findings suggest that reducing inflammation could halt the disease's overall progression.

A team at the University of Southampton used tissue samples from brains without the Alzheimer’s disease and some with the condition. The researchers counted the numbers of an immune cell called microglia in the samples and found that there were significantly more in those with Alzheimer’s disease. 

During their study, they found that the activity of molecules regulating the number of microglia could be linked to the severity of the disease. They then looked at animal models with features of Alzheimer’s and found that blocking the receptor responsible for regulating microglia could improve cognitive skills.

It is hoped that the findings will lead to new and more effective treatments for the condition. 

Dr Simon Ridley, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said the research suggests that blocking the receptor could help limit some of the most damaging symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease like memory loss.

He added: "In the last few years, scientists in Southampton have been at the forefront of research into the role of the immune system in Alzheimer’s, so it is encouraging to see this study taking these ideas forward by identifying a specific mechanism that could be a target for future treatments."

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