The immune system incorporates a large number of very sophisticated mechanisms for clearing debris, killing errant cells and pathogens, and removing unwanted metabolic waste. Therefore many research groups aim to harness and steer immune cells to achieve specific goals, such as the clearance of amyloid beta deposits associated with Alzheimer's disease. There are many different approaches to developing immune therapies of this nature, some more sophisticated than others. Here is one of the less complex possible approaches:
New research shows that the body's immune system may be able to clear the brain of toxic plaque build-up that is the hallmark of Alzheimer's disease, reversing memory loss and brain cell damage. Alzheimer's disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Brains with Alzheimer's disease show build-up of a sticky plaque -- made of a protein called beta-amyloid -- that induces memory loss. When afflicted with Alzheimer's, the immune system, which typically rids the body of toxic substances, becomes imbalanced and inefficient at clearing those plaques.
Researchers used genetically modified mice to show that blocking a substance called interleukin-10 activates an immune response to clear the brain of the beta-amyloid plaques to restore memory loss and brain cell damage. Alzheimer's-afflicted mice in which the immune cells were activated behaved more like mice without the disease in various learning and memory tests. Future studies will test the effectiveness of drugs that target interleukin-10 in rats that the scientists have genetically modified to develop Alzheimer's disease. "Our study shows that 'rebalancing' the immune response to wipe away toxic plaques from the brain may bring new hope for a safe and effective treatment for this devastating illness of the mind."