The pre-clinical stage of Alzheimer’s disease—before patients experience significant memory loss and functional decline—causes nearly an identical brain response as the disease that leads to multiple sclerosis, Dallas researchers have discovered.
Researchers from the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medical at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas and UT Southwestern Medical Center worked on the project, which was recently published in the online edition of the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism. The research does not necessarily link multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease, but it’s the first study to confirm that a massive brain inflammatory response is activated in patients with early-stage Alzheimer’s. The findings could potentially change the path of Alzheimer’s research and treatment options, and create the possibility of an early screening test for the debilitating brain condition.
“We were very surprised with our findings and think it could change the linear path of thinking of the amyloid hypothesis that has consumed Alzheimer’s research in recent years,” said Rong Zhang, senior author of the study. “Up to now, we’ve always thought the plaque buildup in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients caused the activation of immune system-like fighter cells, microglia and astrocytes, but we were looking at people with late-stage disease and analyzing brain tissue during autopsies. Now we have to potentially think about it the other way around—that inappropriate immune-system activation early in the disease process leads to plaque accumulating in the brain and neuron death.”