Those of us who follow the latest research in Alzheimer’s disease are all too familiar with the troublesome amyloid plaques thought to be linked to Alzheimer’s. But could it possibly be that those plaques are actually beneficial?
Neuroscientists Rudolph Tanzi and Robert Moir, of Harvard’s largest teaching hospital, Massachusetts General, are turning research upside down with their latest findings. They’re suggesting that amyloid-beta is actually a constructive part of our immunity, with the task of protecting the brain from foreign cells; much in the way an oyster develops a pearl, for self-protection. As Moir describes, “Maybe amyloid plaques are a brain pearl, a way for our body to trap and permanently sequester these invading pathogens.”
Amyloid-beta, traditionally seen as our enemy, now becomes our immune system’s friend and ally. The problem lies in an overproduction of the plaques that can then impact healthy brain cells, leading to Alzheimer’s disease.
Although the research took years to accomplish, the results are well worth the time put in. The researchers were able to replicate the virus and bacteria killing ability of amyloids in the controlled lab environment, as well as in animal models. It is important to take note that mice producing amyloids were protected against disease such as encephalitis and meningitis, while mice lacking amyloids died within a short period of time.
Theories are still being researched; the immune system could be attacking healthy cells in the brain, not unlike what happens in other autoimmune disorders. Or, it could be the result of an overreaction to a virus or bacteria that enters the brain. Once the cause is isolated, it could potentially provide medical professionals with the answers as to how to halt the process in the early stages and prevent the resulting dementia.
Home Sweet Home In-Home Care, your leader in St. Joseph home care, continues to provide the latest developments in Alzheimer’s disease, while caring for those impacted as we await a cure. Whether the need is for short-term respite care to allow family caregivers a break, full-time, around-the-clock care, or anything in between, we’re available to make life better for those with dementia and those who care for them.