The immune system could play a part in Alzheimer's disease. The discovery in the cause of Alzheimer's could lead to the development of new treatments.
Some immune cells, which normally protect the brain from infection, start consuming an amino acid called arginine, triggering the onset of brain plaques and memory loss which are the typical characteristics of the disease.
Researchers at Duke University carried out the study in mice found that particular immune cells that normally protect the brain start to become destructive and consume an essential nutrient known as arginine.
Blocking arginine consumption process with a small-molecule drug called difluoromethylornithine (DFMO) prevented the brain plaques and memory loss in a mouse model of the disease.
Carol Colton, Senior author and professor of neurology, Duke University School of Medicine, said, "If indeed arginine consumption is so important to the disease process, maybe we could block it and reverse the disease. We see this study opening the doors to thinking about Alzheimer's in a completely different way, to break the stalemate of ideas in Alzheimer's disease."
The research reveals the potential cause of Alzheimer's, but also may lead to a new treatment for the disease, said Colton.
Research into the brains of people who suffer from Alzheimer's typically focused on two types of protein build-up "plaques" and "tangles." Plaques are an accumulation of sticky proteins known as beta amyloid, and tangles are twisted strands of protein called tau.
Laboratory tests on mice have demonstrated that the drug difluoromethylornithine (DFMO) prevents the onset of Alzheimer's, as well as improve the memory of animals that already had the disease.
The study is published in the Journal of Neuroscience