Little is known about the role of the brain’s immune system in Alzheimer’s disease. But researchers have now found an early immune response in individuals with a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s: their brains showed abnormal immune reactions as early as about seven years before the expected onset of dementia.
These results demonstrate that in cases of Alzheimer’s, inflammatory processes in the brain evolve dynamically and are precursors of dementia. These immune responses can be detected by means of a protein in the cerebrospinal fluid, offering physicians the possibility to trace the progression of the disease. The study results are published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
The researchers were able to detect increasing immune activity of the brain by measuring levels of the protein “TREM2” in the cerebrospinal fluid. TREM2 is segregated by certain immune cells of the brain – called microglia – and thus reflects their activity. In cases of the inherited form of Alzheimer’s disease, the timing for the onset of dementia can be precisely predicted. The researchers were therefore able to monitor the rise of TREM2 levels years before the expected occurrence of dementia symptoms.
In total, 127 individuals with a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s participated in the study. They were on average 40 years old. The vast majority showed no symptoms of dementia or had only minor cognitive impairments. The study was conducted 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.
Paper: “Early changes in CSF sTREM2 in dominantly inherited Alzheimer’s disease occur after amyloid deposition and neuronal injury”
Reprinted from materials provided by DZNE.