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Alzheimer's already recognizable years before the outbreak?
Supposedly revolutionary healing methods against Alzheimer's have been propagated several times in the past years, but until today the disease is not curable, only its course can be slowed down. For this, the earliest possible diagnosis is crucial. According to a recent study at the Ludwig Maximillians University (LMU) in Munich, certain proteins in nerve water could serve as an early sign.
The brain's immune cells are already active years before the disease becomes apparent, the scientists report. "These abnormal immune reactions can be demonstrated by the concentration of a protein," the LMU report continued. In this way, a corresponding diagnosis could be made based on the proteins in the future, which would also significantly improve the treatment options. The scientists have published the results of their study in the scientific journal Science Translational Medicine.
Abnormal immune response long before the onset of the disease
The role of the immune system in the brain in Alzheimer's disease has so far remained largely unclear. The research team led by Christian Haass, chair of the metabolic biochemistry at the LMU, and Michael Ewers, professor at the Institute for Stroke and Dementia Research (ISD) at the LMU clinic, was able in his current study to provide an early immune response in people with a genetic predisposition to Find Alzheimer's. Around seven years before the expected outbreak of the first symptoms of dementia, "abnormal immune reactions" had already occurred in the brains of those affected, the scientists report.
Concentration of the protein TREM2 in the nerve water
A total of 127 people with a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer's were included in the study. Their average age was 40 years and, according to the researchers, the vast majority showed “no symptoms of dementia or had very little cognitive impairment.” Based on the concentration of the protein “TREM2” in the nerve water, the scientists were able to get one early, according to the LMU Evidence of increasing immune activity in the brains of the test subjects.
Eating cells release protein
The protein TREM2 is released by the brain phagocytes, the so-called microglia, and reflects their activity, the researchers explain. Since the genetically determined form of Alzheimer's disease can predict the time of onset of dementia relatively precisely, the Munich scientists were able to document the increase in TREM2 values years before the expected occurrence of dementia symptoms, according to the LMU .
The course of the disease is easier to understand
Based on the results, it becomes clear for the first time "that inflammatory processes in the brain develop dynamically in Alzheimer's and that they are precursors of dementia", the experts report. With the help of the protein, this immune reaction can be mapped in the nerve water, which offers the opportunity to understand the course of the disease. "The activity of the phagocytes is stimulated by dying brain cells, not by the deposition of amyloid proteins, the so-called plaques, which also occur in Alzheimer's," emphasizes Christian Haass.
Biomarkers generally valid for Alzheimer's diseases?
According to the researchers, their results could also apply to the so-called sporadic Alzheimer's disease, which is not an inheritable form of the disease and is far more common. "The TREM2 value could be a biomarker that shows the immune activity in the course of an Alzheimer's disease, regardless of whether the disease is genetic or not," emphasizes Prof. Ewers.
Therapeutic applications of the new findings
The scientists also hope that their findings can also be used for therapeutic purposes. "The TREM2 value may be suitable as a therapeutic marker that can be used to read the response to drug treatment," says Ewers. The “phagocytes may also have a protective function, but this comes to a standstill in the course of the disease,” adds Haass. Drugs are currently being researched to increase the activity of the phagocytes. The use of the TREM2 value as a marker should also be checked in further studies. The current investigation was carried out as part of the so-called DIAN project (Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network), a worldwide network for research into the inherited form of Alzheimer's disease. (fp)