Preventing Immune Response Shows Promise for Alzheimer’s, Other Disorders

Preventing Immune Response Shows Promise for Alzheimer’s, Other Disorders
Researchers believe that processes that can be used to control immune reactions toward a virus may also be used to prevent neurodegeneration in conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. To achieve this, researchers blocked the protein PLSCR1 in the brain — a move that prevented immune cells called microglia from attacking and killing neurons. The study, "Phosphatidylserine exposure controls viral innate immune responses by microglia," was published in the journal Neuron. The research team at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, was not focusing on neurodegeneration when they made the discovery. Instead, they wanted to better understand immune reactions to viruses that deliver gene therapies. Viruses that are used to deliver gene therapies have been modified so they are unable to multiply and cause disease. Still, their presence alters the immune system, which may launch an attack that may itself be harmful — particularly if the gene therapy-delivering virus is used in the brain. Such reactions, therefore, limit the possibility of using gene therapy to address various disease conditions. “Normally, the immune system will quickly recognize and act upon potential threats such as virally infected cells,” Axel Nimmerjahn, assistant professor at Salk’s Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center and the paper's senior author, said in a press release. “But in targeting PLSCR1, we’ve effectively shielded infected cells from immune attack and incr
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