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Mechanisms of immune regulation in Alzheimer's disease: a viewpoint.

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By Marx F, Blasko I, Grubeck-Loebenstein B • • November 1, 1999

The immune system may play an important role in the neurodegenerative process in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Complement components, eicosanoids and cytokines are found in cerebral amyloid plaques. These inflammatory proteins may stimulate the amyloid beta (Abeta) production, support its aggregation and increase its cytotoxicity, thus aggrevating the pathology of AD.

Abeta may trigger their release from activated microglia and astrocytes which are the main sources of these proteins. However, there are also indications for a protective role of the immune system against the development of AD. Microglial cells have been shown to degrade Abeta and recent evidence suggests a role of autoreactive Abeta-specific T cells in the elimination of the peptide. This mechanism seems to be impaired in the majority of patients with AD. An Abeta-specific immune reaction may thus represent a natural defence mechanism directed against the accumulation of dangerous amyloidogenic substances.

Impairment of the immune system and the failure to eliminate a toxic metabolite can be the basis for a chronic non-specific inflammatory process in the brain, as described above. AD is a good example how an immune response may lead to tissue destruction and neuronal loss instead of maintaining the integrity of the body.

Source: Arch Immunol Ther Exp (Warsz) 1999;47(4):205-9
PMID: 10483867, UI: 99411668

(Institute for Biomedical Aging Research, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Innsbruck. )

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