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Brain inflammation may be friend, not foe, for Alzheimer's patients

fewer plaques, but rather that the body was better at getting rid of the plaques. The team suspects the involvement of brain cells called microglia, the major immune cell that rushes to injury sites and helps repair and clean up wounds in the brain.

The work is the latest in a growing body of research that is trying to determine the exact role of inflammation in Alzheimer’s disease. O’Banion notes that some studies have found that taking medications to squelch inflammation, such non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs, might help reduce a person’s chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease, while other studies, including a study of more than 2,100 people published in April, refute that notion.

“There is a great deal of evidence that inflammation plays a potentially negative role in Alzheimer’s disease,” said O’Banion. “But much of the evidence comes from experiments with cells in a dish or postmortem human tissue, not from living organisms in which disease progression is closely monitored.

“People have talked for a long time about a balance of ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ within the inflammatory process, either causing harm or alleviating the disease. The current work reinforces the idea that inflammation is not simply the bad guy that many people think it is.”

The work could have ramifications for the development of a vaccine or other strategy to protect against or fight off Alzheimer’s. Work on an Alzheimer’s vaccine has at times been promising, reducing the number of plaques in the brains of animals and a few people with the disease, but it’s also been fraught with difficulty, producing side effects such as encephalitis or severe brain inflammation in people with Alzheimer’s.

“The potential to treat Alzheimer’s disease by modulating the immune system is tremendous and is an area that has not been fully explored,” said O’Banion. “That said, people have to remember that the current findings are in mice, not peopl
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Source:University of Rochester Medical Center


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