Natural Health

Can Your Immune System Heal Alzheimer’s Disease?

Can Your Immune System Heal Alzheimer’s Disease? about undefined
For years a number of Alzheimer’s researchers have tried a variety of approaches in the fight against memory loss. One of them, helping the brain heal itself by giving a leg up to the immune system, has failed to live up to its promise. That is until now… Results of a recent study show that a novel immune-based therapy for Alzheimer’s disease could finally be on the horizon. Over the last several decades researchers have tested hundreds of drugs that have failed to benefit Alzheimer’s patients. These drugs mostly target two proteins: amyloid beta that forms brain-clogging plaques, and its partner in crime, tau, that forms tangles which choke the life out of scores of brain cells. One such drug, Aducanumab, was approved in 2021 with much fanfare. Although Aducanumab reduces beta-amyloid plaques, many scientists don’t believe its approval was warranted because of its side effects and its failure to significantly improve symptoms of memory loss and cognitive dysfunction. The latest drug, Lecanemab, will be approved by the FDA later this year. Like Aducanumab, it’s been hailed as a great breakthrough even though it can cause brain swelling or bleeding and its ability to slow cognitive decline is modest at best. But researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine think they may have come up with a better solution.

The Immune System Solution To Alzheimer’s Disease

Beta amyloid and tau proteins are still seen as the most promising targets for drug therapies by researchers. But another approach is to target the body’s own immune system, because a growing body of evidence implicates an impaired immune system as a contributor to Alzheimer’s. A subset of immune cells within the innate immune system gobbles up and clears away debris and toxins from bodily tissues along with invading microbes. Studies show these immune custodians become sluggish when we get older and fail to clear toxins that cause neurodegeneration. Previous efforts targeting the immune system have failed because the drugs overstimulate the system causing dangerous levels of inflammation which can kill brain cells, the opposite of what’s intended. The approach used by the NYU scientists is to use a “pulsing” drug administration technique to boost immunity but avoid excess inflammation.

Over Half The Plaques Are Wiped Out

For the investigation, the research team studied fifteen elderly female squirrel monkeys. Since virtually all squirrel monkeys naturally develop a form of neurodegeneration that mimics Alzheimer’s disease in humans, they were ideal animals to study. Once a month for two years eight squirrel monkeys received a single dose of an innate immune regulator called CpG ODN, while the rest were given a saline solution. The researchers observed the behavior of the two groups while brain tissue and blood samples were compared for plaque deposits, tau protein levels, and evidence of inflammation. The results showed the monkeys had up to 59 percent fewer plaque deposits in their brains after treatment with CpG ODN compared with the untreated animals. They also had a drop in the levels of toxic tau protein. First author Akash Patel commented on the study published in the journal Brain by saying, “Our findings illustrate that this therapy is an effective way of manipulating the immune system to slow neurodegeneration.” Co-senior author Thomas Wisniewski added: “Our new treatment avoids the pitfalls of earlier attempts because it is delivered in cycles, giving the immune system a chance to rest between doses.” The other co-senior author, Henrieta Scholtzova, is hopeful. “The similarities in aging between the animals studied and our own species give us hope that this therapy will work in human patients as well.”

My Takeaway

Given that the immune system can regulate inflammation and inflammation is linked to Alzheimer’s disease, I’m intrigued by this approach. Certainly, more research is needed, and I’ll be keeping a close eye on the investigation into this treatment. I’ll let you know what I uncover.

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