It is widely noted that changes in the brain and peripheral immune systems are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The neuroinflammatory hypothesis of AD suggests that dysfunctional inflammatory processes not only contribute to disease but can cause the disease, starting decades prior to clinical onset.
Normally our brain has ways of clearing damaged cells and unwanted substances—which can be thought of as “taking out the garbage.” However, a chronic rise in unwanted debris in the brain, including toxic amyloid-beta and tau proteins, can short-circuit that process and lead to chronic inflammation and cell damage.
Our immune systems constantly protect our bodies from invasion by infectious agents and some research indicates that exposure to various microbes may trigger AD. In addition, immune system components monitor changes in our bodies’ own cells.
BrightFocus-funded scientists are looking at what causes the immune response to become unbalanced and whether there are ways to help the brain’s cells and immune system do a better job of fighting Alzheimer’s.
Explore More of Our 360° Research Approach
- Tangling with Tau
- Battling Amyloid Beta
- Blood and the Brain in Dementia
- Biology of APO E and Lipids
- Cell Death
- New Approaches
Genes are the “master blueprint” that instructs our cells to make unique proteins which in turn build, operate, and repair human tissue. Humans have an estimated 24,000 genes along our 23 matched pairs of chromosomes (46 in all), and “genomics” refers to the field that studies all of them at once.
A biological marker (biomarker) is a measurable substance in an organism whose presence is indicative of some phenomenon such as disease or infection. Biomarkers can help doctors and scientists diagnose diseases and health conditions, find health risks in a person, monitor responses to treatment, and see how a person's disease or health condition changes over time.
Tangling with Tau
Tau is a small protein with a short name but a large reputation because of its association with multiple brain diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The tau protein is predominantly found in brain cells (neurons).
Battling Amyloid Beta
There are many versions of amyloid protein in the human body, and most serve a useful role. One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the accumulation of amyloid plaques (abnormally configured proteins) between nerve cells (neurons) in the brain.
Blood and the Brain in Dementia
Scientists are interested in developing a screening tool for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in blood. A simple blood draw is much less invasive than a spinal tap and may prove more cost effective. Developing blood biomarkers that accurately depict brain changes has proven challenging, as levels of AD hallmark proteins in the blood are low, but there are some very recent promising results observing tau and the ratio of Aβ42 and Aβ40.
Biology of APO E and Lipids
Alzheimer's disease (AD). Its primary function is to regulate a class of proteins involved in the metabolism of fats (lipids) in the body. However, APOE has several common variants (or "alleles") whose effects vary.
The human brain has an estimated 100 billion neurons. Extending from each of them is a long fiber, known as an “axon,” which can run several feet. Each axon forms a connection, known as a “synapse” with another neuron, creating a circuit over which brain signals travel. In Alzheimer’s disease (AD), individual neurons die and do not regenerate; while others have brains that are more are resilient and respond to meet changing demands.
Years of innovative and dedicated research have paid off with the discovery of numerous factors contributing to Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathology. With a disease as complex as this one, it’s very helpful to find multiple points where it may be possible to slow or halt its progress.