Alzheimer’s disease may be the result of byproduct that builds up in the brain when it fights infections, according to a new study.
The new study, if proven, could change the way the medical community thinks about the disease, and the development of drugs to treat it. For a long time, researchers believed that a protein called amyloid beta had a role in causing Alzheimer’s by building up plaque in the brain that destroyed its ability to make connections, ultimately leading to memory loss. Now, the new research which is published in the journal Science Translational Medicine suggests that amyloid buildup may actually happen as a protective measure when the brain is trying to fight off infections, and that Alzheimer’s disease may be caused when an infection causes too much amyloid buildup. As people age, it may be easier for infections to reach the brain, triggering the amyloid and spurring the cascade of problems that lead to the disease.
The study authors made the discovery by infecting brain cells in lab dishes, worms and mice with bacteria and studying how the brain creates amyloid and plaque in response. If the research is confirmed with more evidence, then the way scientists go about developing drugs for the disease could change. As Scientific American reports, it may be that a little amyloid protein is good for the brain, and instead of getting rid of all of it, researchers may want to focus on ways to lower the levels. “We might want to think about just dialing it down,” study author and neurologist Rudolph Tanzi of Harvard University, tells Scientific American.
More research is needed to determine whether the link is definitive, but other experts in the field are calling the findings “provocative.”
- Here’s How Effective the Original Vaccines Are Against Omicron
- The Promise—And Possible Perils—of Editing What We Say Online
- How Trump Survived Decades of Legal Trouble: Deny, Deflect, Delay, and Don't Put Anything in Writing
- Flint Is Still Shaken by its Water Crisis—and Residents Are Experiencing Long-Term Mental-Health Issues
- A Beer Shortage Is Brewing. A Volcano Is Partly to Blame
- How Fasting Can—and Can't—Improve Gut Health
- Cities Keep Enforcing Curfews for Teens, Despite Evidence They Don't Stop Crime
- Joe Manchin’s Red Tape Reform Could Supercharge Renewable Energy in the U.S.
- Column: We Should Talk More About What a Brilliant Actor Marilyn Monroe Was