NIH researchers have found that the body’s hyperactive immune system may play a critical role in the damage caused by ageing brain disorders.
In a study of fruit flies, National Institute of Health (NIH) scientists have suggested a breakdown in brain cell waste system triggers a destructive immune reaction. According to the researchers, the hyperactive immune system in the body has the potential to be a critical role in the damage caused by ageing brain disorders.
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The results of the research are based on experiments in which the researchers altered the activity of Cdk5, a gene that preclinical studies have suggested is important for early brain development and may be involved in ageing brain disorders and neurodegenerative diseases, such as ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Previously, they found that altering Cdk5 sped up the genetic ageing process, causing the flies to die earlier than normal and have problems with walking or flying late in life and greater signs of neurodegenerative brain damage.
In this study, it was suggested that altering Cdk5 resulted in the death of dopamine releasing neurons, especially in the brains of older flies.
Typically, Parkinson’s disease damages the same types of cells in humans. Further experiments in flies suggested the neuron loss happened because altering Cdk5 slowed autophagy, or a cell’s waste disposal system that rids the body of damaged cells in a contained, controlled fashion, which in turn triggered the hyperactive immune system to attack the animal’s own neurons.
This immune system attack is a much more disordered and more diffuse process than autophagy.
By altering Cdk5, genetically restoring the waste system or blocking the immune system’s responses prevented the reduction in dopamine neurons.
The authors concluded that this chain reaction in which a breakdown in autophagy triggers a widely destructive immune reaction may occur in human brain during several ageing brain disorders and that researchers may want to look to these systems for new treatment targets and strategies.