"It is true, and thus the question of whether it is sad or happy has no meaning whatever."
Bernhard Schlink

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Friday, August 12, 2005

Brain Changes 

Alzheimer's disease is one of the scariest things out there - it's unclear what really causes it, and the effects are dramatic and deadly - and most of our hopes against the disease rest upon finding a vaccine. Previous vaccine attempts have proven fruitless at best, but a new technique, to be tested in humans perhaps as soon as next year, offers hope by taking a slightly different approach.

Microglia are a large part of the brain's innate immune system, acting as 'janitors,' supporting and cleaning up after neurons (and probably glia too, it's just unclear how). It makes sense, therefore, that microglia could be helpful against the beta amyloid plaques of Alzheimer's disease, which are themselves immune byproducts. Researchers at Brigham and Women'’s Hospital have been testing a nasal spray of two drugs, Copaxone and Protollin, which are known to activate microglia and are approved for use against multiple sclerosis, and found that they significantly reduced amyloid plaques in the brains of mice with Alzheimers.

This is not only a very hopeful study - perhaps we will soon have a treatment or vaccine for a really nasty disease - but it is also an excellent example of how studying one disease can lead to breakthroughs against another.

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