Alzheimer’s could be prevented and even cured by boosting the brain’s own immune response, scientists at Stanford University believe.
Researchers discovered that nerve cells die because cells which are supposed to clear the brain of bacteria, viruses and dangerous deposits, stop working.
These cells, called ‘microglia’ function well when people are young, but when they age, a single protein called EP2 stops them operating efficiently.
Now scientists have shown that blocking the protein allows the microglia to function normally again so they can hoover up the dangerous sticky amyloid-beta plaques which damage nerve cells in Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers found that, in mice, blocking EP2 with a drug reversed memory loss and myriad other Alzheimer’s-like features in the animals.
“Microglia are the brain’s beat cops,” said Dr Katrin Andreasson, Professor of neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine.
“Our experiments show that keeping them on the right track counters memory loss and preserves healthy brain physiology.”