Alzheimer’s may be an autoimmune disease of the brain, suggests researcher

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia among the elderly. Although widely studied, the cause of the disease is still unknown. In an article published on Tuesday (20/9), chemistry professor Donald Weaver, director of the Krembil Research Institute laboratory, part of the University Health Network, in Canada, suggests that the condition is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain.

“Based on our last 30 years of research, we no longer think of Alzheimer’s as primarily a disease of the brain. Instead, we believe it is a disorder of the immune system within the brain.” Science Alert.

Some drugs being developed for the disease focus efforts on blocking the formation of blocks of the brain protein beta-amyloid, believing that it would be the cause of the disease. Weaver has the theory that the substance is not produced on an exaggerated scale in Alzheimer’s patients, but in a normal way, as part of the brain’s immune system. The key may lie in how the body reacts.

“When brain trauma occurs or bacteria are present in the brain, beta-amyloid is a major contributor to the brain’s comprehensive immune response. And this is where the problem begins.”

The similarities between the fat molecules present in the membranes of bacteria and the membranes of brain cells would cause the protein to mistakenly attack the brain cells that should be protected, causing an autoimmune process. The consequence would be the chronic and progressive loss of function of these cells, causing dementia.

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Rheumatoid arthritis is an example of an autoimmune disease, and it is treated with steroid-based therapies. The professor explains that, although the path to develop new drugs for Alzheimer’s seems obvious with his findings, the brain is a very complete organ and the approach should not be efficient – however, more studies must be done with the new direction.

“While drugs conventionally used to treat autoimmune diseases may not work against Alzheimer’s disease, we strongly believe that targeting other immune regulatory pathways in the brain will lead us to new and effective treatment approaches for the disease,” he says.

Approximately 1.2 million people live with some form of dementia in Brazil and, worldwide, the number reaches 50 million people. The non-profit organization Alzheimer’s Disease International estimates that global diagnoses will reach 74.7 million in 2030 and 131.5 million in 2050.

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