This stuff in the brain may protect you from Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 44 million people around the world.

In a recent study from the University of Alberta, researchers found that the most common version of a protein called CD33 plays a crucial role in regulating white blood cells in the human brain.

The finding may help fight against Alzheimer’s disease.

The study is published in Communications Biology. One author chemist and immunologist Matthew Macauley.

The research builds on previous studies that had identified the protein as a factor that may decrease a person’s likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease.

However, less than 10% of the population has that version of CD33 as opposed to the more common one.

According to the team, white blood cells in the brain, called microglia, play a critical role in Alzheimer’s disease—they can be harmful or protective.

The presence of CD33 on microglia suggests the immune cells can protect the brain from Alzheimer’s disease under the right circumstances.

If scientists can target the more common version of CD33 to influence microglia to become more like those that have the protective, rare version of CD33, it could lead the way to make the microglia protective as opposed to harmful—and be a key in treating the disease.

The study set the stage for future testing of a causal relationship between CD33 and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as testing therapeutic strategies to sway microglia from being harmful to protect against the disease by targeting CD33.

Microglia have the potential to ‘clean up’ the neurodegenerative plaques, through a process called phagocytosis—so a therapy to harness this ability to slow down or reverse Alzheimer’s disease can be envisioned.

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