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New Studies Find a Potential New Treatment for Alzheimer’s

Illustration of neurons in the brain affected by Alzeimer’s
Source: Freepik

The brain is incredibly complicated, and while scientists have tried for decades to better understand them, they are still learning more every day about the way these natural machines function. And the newest research into the human brain, specifically for those experiencing Alzheimer’s could change lives around the world. 

In a recent study published by the University of Washington, researchers show that they found something different in the brain’s of Alzheimer’s patients that no one had ever noticed before. Essentially, the microglia in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s were less protective as they were in a pre-inflammatory state. 

Everyone has microglia in their brains; they are immune cells which work to clear waste from the brain and maintain standard functioning. However, when the microglia cells are in a pre-inflammatory state, they cannot clean the dead cells of the brain as they are supposed to. 

It’s important to note that scientists don’t yet understand exactly how or how quickly microglia change from inflammatory to pre-inflammatory. But they do know that the pre-inflammatory cells will create problems within the brain that ensure it won’t function to its full capacity, and that it will age more quickly. Therefore, researchers at UW are hypothesizing that the increased pre-inflammatory microglia cells are related to the disease, they just don’t know how. 

Neuroscientist and UW researcher Katherine Prater explained, “At this point, we can’t say whether the microglia are causing the pathology or whether the pathology is causing these microglia to alter their behavior.”

This study is a huge breakthrough in many ways. The research team used 22 donor brains, 12 who had Alzheimer’s while alive and 10 who didn’t; the scientists employed a new method that enhanced and analyzed single-nucleus RNA sequencing, something that had never been done in this way before. At UW, they found new sets of clusters they hadn’t seen previously, and, of course, noticed that the immune cells in the Alzehimer’s brains were far more likely to be pre-inflammatory. 

All this science is certainly exciting, but it’s really the implications of what the finding means that is turning heads. If researchers can find out whether the Alzheimer’s disease is causing or being caused by the pre-inflammatory clusters, then they could find a treatment for the seemingly untreatable disease. Clinical trials of anti-inflammatory medications haven’t been successful in the past, but with this new information, they may be able to target the specific microglia cells with better results. 

Scientists on the UW research team are quite hopeful that will be the case. In the report, Prater said, “Now that we have determined the genetic profiles of these microglia, we can try to find out exactly what they are doing and hopefully identify ways to change their behaviors that may be contributing to Alzheimer’s disease,” and excitingly, “If we can determine what they are doing, we might be able to change their behavior with treatments that might prevent or slow this disease.”


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