Those of us who follow Alzheimer’s disease research are all too accustomed to the bothersome amyloid plaques, the sticky buildup, thought to be linked to Alzheimer’s. But new thinking is questioning if those plaques are actually helpful and could lead to an Alzheimer’s cure.
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 describes, “Maybe amyloid plaques are a brain pearl, a way for our body to trap and permanently sequester these invading pathogens.”
Amyloid-beta, traditionally seen as our enemy, now becomes our immune system’s friend and ally. The problem lies in an overproduction of the plaques that can then impact healthy brain cells, leading to Alzheimer’s disease.
Although it took years to achieve results, they were well worth the wait. The researchers were able to replicate the virus and bacteria killing ability of amyloids in the controlled lab environment, as well as in animal models. It is important to take note that mice producing amyloids were protected against disease such as encephalitis and meningitis, while mice lacking amyloids died within a short period of time.
There are several theories yet to be explored to explain what’s causing overproduction of the amyloid plaques; the immune system could be attacking healthy cells in the brain, similar to other autoimmune disorders. Or, it could be the result of an overreaction to a virus or bacteria that enters the brain. Determining the cause will have amazing outcomes as we will conceivably be able to slow the process in the beginning stages of development and possibly prevent memory loss and cognitive ability.
Heaven at Home Senior Care is a Dallas home care leader in providing dementia care for those impacted, as we wait for a research breakthrough that leads to 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 as needed to make life easier for those with dementia and those who care for them. Call us at 866-381-0500 to learn more or click here to contact us online.