The Alzheimer’s Association and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation recently announced the award of three grants to assess the role of the immune system in Alzheimer’s disease. The awards represent an investment of $500,000 to advance this understudied yet immense area of scientific knowledge, which could play a major role in the improved treatment and eventual cure of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease affects the lives of 5.3 million people in the US alone and is the sixth leading cause of death in the country. The costs associated with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, according to estimates, will reach $226 billion in 2015 and will increase to $1.1 trillion in 2050, as predicted by the Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures report.
“One of the largest obstacles to finding effective treatments for Alzheimer’s is our lack of understanding of the basic biology of the disease, including the role of the immune system and inflammation. These projects closely examine the role that inflammation plays in Alzheimer’s disease and carry the potential to reveal new therapies,” noted Tom Skalak, the Executive Director for Science and Technology of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.
Maria Carrillo, the Chief Science Officer of the Alzheimer’s Association, added: “We know the stakes are high for finding life-changing treatments for the Alzheimer’s epidemic. A growing body of research suggests that inflammation plays a significant role in Alzheimer’s disease, but it appears to both help and harm. Additional research is critical to determine exactly the role inflammation plays and how we might harness it to more effectively treat and prevent Alzheimer’s in the future. These are three exciting new research projects that will advance our understanding of this important area of research exploration. The Alzheimer’s Association is excited about partnering with the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to seek further understanding of Alzheimer’s disease.”
Those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease have multiple characteristic traits in their brains such as abnormal buildup of protein clusters fragments among neurons (plaques) along with dying or dead neurons twisted near protein strands (tangles). There is also a common overly active brain inflammatory response, however it is still unclear if this inflammation is a contributor, a cause or a secondary effect in Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers who are part of this new study hope that unlocking new insights into the immune system’s role in the disease will lead to effective next-generation Alzheimer’s therapies.