Those of us who follow the latest research in the search for an Alzheimer’s cure 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 Massachusetts General, Harvard’s largest teaching hospital, are challenging long held beliefs in the field of Alzheimer’s research. They’re proposing that amyloid-beta is actually a beneficial 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-defense. As Moir explains, “Maybe amyloid plaques are a brain pearl, a way for our body to trap and permanently sequester these invading pathogens.”
This shift in thinking turns amyloid-beta from our enemy to a necessary component of our immune system. The problem rests in an accumulation of the plaques that can then impact flourishing brain cells, indicating Alzheimer’s disease.
Although the research took years to accomplish, the results are well worth the time put in as we get one step closer to an Alzheimer’s cure. Not only were medical scientists able to validate the virus and bacteria killing ability of amyloids in the laboratory, but identical results were found when tested in animal models. In fact, mice with infections such as encephalitis or meningitis were protected against the disease when producing amyloids, while those 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, the body’s overreaction to a virus or bacteria entering the brain may be causing the issues. Once the cause is determined, it could possibly allow physicians to stop the process in the early stages and restrict the resulting dementia.
Providers of dementia care in Atlanta, Atlanta Home Care Partners, will continue to follow the latest developments in Alzheimer’s disease, while providing specialized dementia care 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.