London: Blocking a receptor in the brain responsible for regulating immune cells could protect against the memory and behaviour changes seen in the progression of Alzheimer's disease, says a new study.
The study points out that inflammation in the brain can drive the development of the disease and suggests that by reducing this inflammation, the growth of the disease can be curtailed.
"These findings are as close to evidence as we can get to show that this particular pathway is active in the development of Alzheimer's disease,” said lead author of the study Diego Gomez-Nicola from University of Southampton in Britain.
The researchers used tissue samples from healthy brains and those with Alzheimer's, both of the same age.
They counted the numbers of a particular type of immune cell, known as microglia, in the samples and found that these were more numerous in the brains with Alzheimer's disease.
In addition, the activity of the molecules regulating the numbers of microglia correlated with the severity of the disease.
The researchers then studied these same immune cells in mice that had been bred to develop features of Alzheimer's.
They found that an inhibitor that blocks CSF1R -- the receptor responsible for regulating microglia -- could prevent the rise in microglia numbers seen in untreated mice as the disease progressed.
The inhibitor also prevented the loss of communication points between the nerve cells in the brain associated with Alzheimer's, and the treated mice demonstrated fewer memory and behavioural problems compared with the untreated mice.
The research was published in the journal Brain.