Those of us who follow the latest research in Alzheimer’s disease are all too familiar with the troublesome amyloid plaques thought to be linked to Alzheimer’s. But could it conceivably be that amyloid plaques are actually helpful?
Neuroscientists Rudolph Tanzi and Robert Moir, of Harvard’s largest teaching hospital, Massachusetts General, are turning research upside down with their latest findings. Whereas most research suggests amyloid-beta is problematic, these researchers are setting forth the idea that amyloid-beta is beneficial to our immunity, protecting the brain from foreign cells; much in the way an oyster develops a pearl. Moir explains, “Maybe amyloid plaques are a brain pearl, a way for our body to trap and permanently sequester these invading pathogens.”
It is a major shift in thinking. Amyloid-beta transitions from being our enemy to becoming a necessary component of our immune system. Overproduction of the plaques impacts healthy brain cells and may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Although it took years to achieve results, they were well worth the wait. Not only were researchers able to demonstrate the virus and bacteria killing ability of amyloids in a test tube, but the same results were realized 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.
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. Another theory suggests that it is a sensitivity to a virus or bacteria resulting in an overreaction. Once the cause is isolated, it could potentially provide medical professionals with the answers as to how to halt the process in the early stages and prevent the resulting Alzheimer’s.
JFS Care will continue to follow the latest developments in Alzheimer’s disease, while providing specialized dementia care from our highly skilled senior caregivers as we await a cure. Whether the need is for short-term respite care or more in-depth care, our care team is available to provide care whenever you or your loved one needs it. Contact us online or at (213) 383-2273 to learn more.