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.