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A protein found in our brain that protects us from Alzheimer’s

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Researchers from the German Center for the Control of Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) and the Institute for Stroke and Dementia Research (ISD) at the University Hospital of Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich found that TREM2 protein positively affects the course of Alzheimer’s disease .

When TREM2 is present in higher concentrations in the cerebrospinal fluid, patients at any stage of the disease have a better prognosis. This observation provides a starting point for the development of new drug.

In the brain, TREM2 is produced exclusively by microglia, the brain’s immune cells . These cells patrol the brain and cleanse it of cellular waste and debris. In previous studies in mice, scientists have demonstrated that TREM2 activates microglia to enable and selectively destroy toxic protein aggregates typical of Alzheimer’s disease.

This means that TREM2 protects the brain from the degenerative effects of the disease – at least in animal models.

But what about Alzheimer’s patients ? Does TREM2 protect the human brain? To answer these questions, the researchers for several years determined the correlation of the level of TREM2 in the cerebrospinal fluid of patients with Alzheimer’s disease with the progression of the disease.

We used data from 385 subjects from ADNI, a large clinical dataset containing records and samples from patients and healthy elderly people, taken during regular checks over a long period.

As a result, experts found that high levels of TREM2 improved the prognosis of patients at all stages of the disease: the memory remained more stable, and the degradation of the hippocampus , the area of ​​the brain responsible for learning and memory , was less pronounced. According to scientists, these results are clinically significant because they have been observed for 11 years.

It was also found that the concentration of TREM2 in cerebrospinal fluid usually increases in all patients in the early stages of the disease, when the first symptoms appear. This is probably a response to brain damage that has already occurred: this is how protein stimulates microglia for protection. However, it appears that this protection is not enough for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

At this point, researchers are going to dwell in more detail, because they see the potential for creating new therapeutic strategies. Scientists are currently developing antibodies that stimulate the function of TREM2 in order to thus enhance its natural protective properties.

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