Alzheimer’s disease may not be a brain disease in the first place. A new theory suggests it’s an autoimmune condition

The pursuit of a cure for Alzheimer’s disease It has become an increasingly competitive and controversial task with the recent years that have seen many important controversies.

In July 2022, Science reported that a 2006 major research paper, published in the prestigious journal Nature, which identified a subtype of a brain protein called beta-amyloid as the cause of Alzheimer’s disease, may have been based on fabricated data.

One year ago, in June 2021, the US Food and Drug Administration approved aducanumab, which is antibodyTargeting beta-amyloid as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, although data supporting its use have been incomplete and contradictory. Some doctors believe aducanumab should never have been approved, while others feel it should be given a chance.

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With millions of people in need of effective treatment, why are researchers still floundering in this search for a cure for what to say One of the most important diseases Facing the human race?

Escape from beta-amyloid rut

For years, scientists have been focused on trying to come up with new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease By preventing the formation of harmful clumps of this mysterious protein called beta-amyloid in the brain. Indeed, it can be argued that we scientists have put ourselves in an intellectual turmoil that focuses almost exclusively on this approach, often ignoring or even ignoring other potential explanations.

Unfortunately, this dedication to studying abnormal protein clumps has not translated into a beneficial drug or treatment. The need for a new way of thinking “outside the block” in thinking about Alzheimer’s disease is emerging as a top priority in brain science.

My lab at the Krembil Brain Institute, part of the University Health Network in Toronto, is creating a new theory of Alzheimer’s disease. Based on the past 30 years of research, we no longer think of Alzheimer’s as a disease that primarily affects the brain. Instead, we believe that Alzheimer’s disease is primarily a disorder of the brain immune system inside the brain.

The immune system, found in every organ in the body, is a collection of cells and molecules that work in concert to aid repair. injuries And protection from foreign invaders. When a person stumbles and falls, the immune system helps repair damaged tissue. When someone suffers from a viral or bacterial infection, the immune system helps fight these invading microbes.

Exactly the same processes are found in the brain. When there is head trauma, the brain’s immune system begins to help repair. When bacteria are present in the brain, the immune system is there to respond.

Alzheimer’s disease is an autoimmune disease

We believe beta-amyloid is not an abnormally produced protein, but rather a naturally occurring molecule that is part of the brain’s immune system. It’s supposed to be there. When brain Trauma occurs or when bacteria are present in the brain, beta-amyloid is a major contributor to the brain’s overall immune response. Here the problem begins.

Alzheimer’s disease is a public health crisis in need of innovative ideas and new direction. (Source: Getty Images / Thinkstock)

Because of the striking similarities between the lipid molecules that make up the membranes of bacteria and the membranes of brain cells, beta-amyloid is unable to distinguish between invading bacteria and a host. brain cells, mistakenly attacking the brain cells they are supposed to protect.

This leads to a chronic and gradual loss of brain cell function, which eventually culminates in dementia – all because the body’s immune system cannot differentiate between bacteria and brain cells.

When viewed as a wrong attack by the brain immune system Alzheimer’s disease manifests itself as an autoimmune disease on the organ it is supposed to defend. There are many types of autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, in which autoantibodies play an important role in disease progression, and for which steroid-based therapies can be effective. But these treatments will not work against Alzheimer’s disease.

The brain is a very special and special organ, known to be the most complex structure in the universe. In our model of Alzheimer’s disease, beta-amyloid helps protect and boost our immune system, but unfortunately, it also plays a central role in the autoimmune process that we think may lead to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Although drugs traditionally used in the treatment of autoimmune diseases may not work against Alzheimer’s disease, we strongly believe that targeting other immune-regulating pathways in the brain will lead us to new and effective therapies for Alzheimer’s disease. the disease.

Other theories about the disease

In addition to the autoimmune theory of Alzheimer’s disease, many new and diverse theories are emerging. For example, some scientists believe that Alzheimer’s disease is a disease of tiny cellular structures called mitochondria – the energy factories in every brain cell. Mitochondrial transformation Oxygen From the air we breathe, and turning glucose from the food we eat into the energy needed for remembering and thinking.

Some assert that it is an end result of a specific infection in the brain, and bacteria in the mouth are often cited as the culprit. Still others suggest that the disease may arise from abnormal handling of metals within the brain, possibly zinc, copper, or… iron.

It is gratifying to see new thinking about this ancient disease. Dementia currently affects more than 50 million people worldwide, and a new diagnosis is made every three seconds. Often, people with Alzheimer’s disease are unable to recognize their children or even their wives for more than 50 years.

Alzheimer’s disease is a public health crisis in need of innovative ideas and new direction. For the well-being of people and families with dementia, for the social and economic impact on an already stressed health care system and for dealing with ever-increasing costs and demands mental illnessWe need to better understand Alzheimer’s, its causes, and what we can do to treat it and help the people and families living with it.

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