April 6, 2018

Alzheimer's DiseaseThose of us who follow current Alzheimer’s disease research are all too accustomed with the problematic amyloid plaques thought to be linked to Alzheimer’s. But could it possibly be that those plaques are actually helpful?

Neuroscientists Rudolph Tanzi and Robert Moir, from Harvard’s influential teaching hospital, Massachusetts General, are making breakthroughs 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. As Moir expounds, “Maybe amyloid plaques are a brain pearl, a way for our body to trap and permanently sequester these invading pathogens.”

This is a monumental shift in thinking which turns amyloid-beta from foe to friend and ally to our immune system. Overproduction of the plaques impact 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. It is important to take note that mice producing amyloids were protected against disease such as encephalitis and meningitis, while mice lacking amyloids died within a short period of time.

Theories are still being researched; the immune system could be attacking healthy cells in the brain, not unlike what happens in other autoimmune disorders. Or, the body’s overreaction to a virus or bacteria entering the brain may be causing the issues. Once the cause is determined, it could possibly allow physicians to stop the process in the early stages and restrict the resulting dementia.

Continuum is a leader in providing dementia care in St. Louis for those impacted, as we wait for an Alzheimer’s disease research breakthrough that leads to a cure. Whether the need is for short-term respite care to allow family caregivers a break, full-time, around-the-clock care, or anything in between, we’re available as needed to make life easier for those with dementia and those who care for them. Contact us today to find out how we can help.