A new study has suggested that a natural protein could help control the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, while it may also slow the progression of the condition.
Researchers at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and the University of Glasgow identified the protein, which is responsible for controlling the immune system.
Published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), their findings could influence future treatments for Alzheimer’s.
It's already well-established that the brain’s immune system is important in the development of the condition. However, the team wanted to better understand the role of a specific protein - IL-33 - as previous studies have suggested that people with Alzheimer’s disease have lower levels of IL-33, which leads to damaging inflammation.
Dr Simon Ridley, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said the role of the immune system in Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia is a promising area for developing new drugs to treat the condition.
In their study, the team injected IL-33 and found that it resulted in improved nerve cell communication and could even boost memory, according to lab models.
They also found that it could decrease the amount of the toxic protein amyloid, which is commonly found in Alzheimer’s.
By exploring this further, the researchers found that IL-33 triggered the release of special immune cells to remove amyloid clumps.
Although this research is only in the early stages, it suggests a possible way of encouraging the immune system to get rid of a toxic Alzheimer’s protein. However, further results will be needed to see whether this approach could have positive effects in humans.
Dr Ridley said the charity was investing in drug discovery projects across the UK and internationally, helping to take promising ideas and accelerate their progress towards the clinic.
"As there are no treatments that can halt the damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease, it’s important that many different approaches are tested in the hunt for new, effective medicines,” he explained.
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