The researchers found that by removing brain immune cells known as microglia from rodent models of Alzheimer's disease, beta-amyloid plaques -- the hallmark pathology of AD -- never formed. Their study will appear Aug. 21 in the journal Nature Communications.
Previous research has shown most Alzheimer's risk genes are turned on in microglia, suggesting these cells play a role in the disease. "However, we hadn't understood exactly what the microglia are doing and whether they are significant in the initial Alzheimer's process," said Kim Green, associate professor of neurobiology & behavior. "We decided to examine this issue by looking at what would happen in their absence."
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The researchers used a drug that blocks microglia signaling that is necessary for their survival. Green and his lab have previously shown that blocking this signaling effectively eliminates these immune cells from the brain. "What was striking about these studies is we found that in areas without microglia, plaques didn't form," Green said. "However, in places where microglia survived, plaques did develop. You don't have Alzheimer's without...
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