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Manipulating brain inflammation may help clear brain of amyloid plaques, Mayo Clinic researchers say
Date:10/22/2009

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. In a surprising reversal of long-standing scientific belief, researchers at the Mayo Clinic campus in Florida have discovered that inflammation in the brain is not the trigger that leads to buildup of amyloid deposits and development of Alzheimer's disease.

In fact, inflammation helps clear the brain of these noxious amyloid plaques early in the disease development, as seen from studies in mice that are predisposed to the disorder, say the researchers in the online issue of the FASEB Journal.

"This is the opposite of what most people who study Alzheimer's disease, including our research group, believed," says the study's lead investigator Pritam Das, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Neuroscience. "And it also suggests that we can take advantage of the brain's own immune cells by directing them to remove amyloid plaques from the brain, thus protecting the brain against their harmful effects."

The study tested the widely held belief that inflammation in the brain increases the production and buildup of a toxic protein known as amyloid beta (Aβ). Clumps of this protein in the brain are the hallmark pathological feature of Alzheimer's disease.

"The belief was that when the brain's immune cells, microglia, are activated following the initial buildup of amyloid plaques, the inflammation that ensues stimulates the brain cell's machinery to produce more Aβ, which then leads to more inflammation," Dr. Das says. "This chronic activation of immune cells results in a self-reinforcing feedback loop that promotes more and more Aβ deposition and inflammation, eventually leading to malfunction and death of brain neurons."

Although this notion, which came mostly from studies in laboratory cells, was accepted throughout the scientific community, the Mayo Clinic researchers developed a way to test it in a living organism and they expected to see the same result.

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Contact: Kevin Punsky
punsky.kevin@mayo.edu
904-953-2299
Mayo Clinic
Source:Eurekalert

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