, Volume 8, Issue 6, pp 529-538

Local neuroinflammation and the progression of Alzheimer’s disease

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Abstract

Postmortem immunohistochemical studies have revealed a state of chronic inflammation limited to lesioned areas of brain in Alzheimer’s disease. Some key actors in this inflammation are activated microglia (brain macrophages), proteins of the classical complement cascade, the pentraxins, cytokines, and chemokines. The inflammation does not involve the adaptive immune system or peripheral organs, but is rather due to the phylogenetically much older innate immune system, which appears to operate in most tissues of the body. Chronic inflammation can damage host tissue and the brain may be particularly vulnerable because of the postmitotic nature of neurons. Many of the inflammatory mediators have been shown to be locally produced and selectively elevated in affected regions of Alzheimer’s brain. Moreover, studies of tissue in such degenerative processes as atherosclerosis and infarcted heart suggest a similar local innate immune reaction may be important in such conditions. Much epidemiological and limited clinical evidence suggests that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may impede the onset and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. But these drugs strike at the periphery of the inflammatory reaction. Much better results might be obtained if drugs were found that could inhibit the activation of microglia or the complement system in brain, and combinations of drugs aimed at different inflammatory targets might be much more effective than single agents.

The authors’ research has been supported by grants from the Jack Brown and Family A.D. Research Fund and the Alzheimer Society of Canada, as well as donations from The Friends of UBC and individual British Columbians.