Highlighting a potential target in the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS) and Alzheimer’s disease, new research suggests that triggering a protein found on the surface of brain cells may help slow the progression of these and other neurological diseases.
Working with mice, two research teams at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis independently linked the protein to the ability to clear debris from the brain. Such waste builds up both as a byproduct of daily mental activities and as a result of misdirected immune system attacks on brain cells. If too much debris is present in the brain for too long, it can contribute to neurological disease.
In one study, appearing online Feb. 26 in Cell, scientists showed that Alzheimer’s brain plaques build up more slowly in mice that have a defective version of the TREM2 protein. In another, published Jan. 29 in Acta Neuropathologica, researchers showed that mice lacking the same protein had trouble cleaning up debris in the brain produced by damage to a protective coating on nerve cells. The problem is thought to occur in MS and other neurological disorders.
“We’ve been very interested in identifying ways to control naturally occurring mechanisms that help clean and repair the brain, and these new studies provide clear evidence that TREM2 could be just such a target,” said Laura Piccio, MD, PhD assistant professor of neurology and senior author of one of the studies.
Featured article originally published at Washington University Newsroom: New target identified in fight against Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis