Study Finds That Immune Cells in the Brain Could Be Used to Slow Alzheimer’s

With no cure for Alzheimer’s, methods to slow the disease are actively being sought. A new study finds that our immune cells could help.

Researchers at Lund University and Karolinska Institutet in Sweden recently investigated how immune cells in the brain, called microglia, could be activated against Alzheimers. Their findings, published in the journal Nature Aging, show that a certain type of activation can be used to trigger inflammation that protects the brain.


Joana B. Pereira, first author and researcher at both institutions involved in the study, says, “Most people probably think that inflammation in the brain is something bad and that you should inhibit the inflammatory system in case of illness. But inflammation doesn’t just have to be negative.”

The inflammation in question came from activation of a protein called TREM2, found on the surface of microglial cells. A mutation in this protein can lead to an uptick in Alzheimer’s risk. The team says that when it’s activated, though, it seems to be triggered due to sensing residual products of disintegrating brain cells. When this activation is applied to Alzheimer’s patients, the team found that fewer structures formed by the tau protein can accumulate in brain cells. The team says this slows the development of the disease and helps patients maintain their cognitive abilities a bit longer.


The researchers say in past studies with animals, microglial cells have been found to be able to eat tau proteins to address abnormalities in the brain. The team believes that could explain the findings of the current study in humans. They also hope this activation could one day serve as part of the treatment for Alzheimer’s.

Oskar Hansson, study co-author and professor of neurology at Lund University, says, “In addition to trying to find therapies to reduce the proteins beta-amyloid and tau, I see this as a third treatment principle. Perhaps in the future patients can receive a cocktail of drugs that, in addition to reducing beta-amyloid, also boost TREM2 antibodies and thus slow down the course of the disease.”


To read the whole study, click here.

Alzheimer’s Support

Fund Alzheimer’s research and supplies at The Alzheimer’s Site for free!