Individuals with Down syndrome are at a much greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, with inflammation of the brain starting early in life and the risk of Alzheimer’s reaching nearly 80% by the age of 60.
The root cause of Alzheimer’s disease is unknown.
However, its frequency in patients with Down syndrome suggests that targeting inflammation in preclinical models of that syndrome could be an attractive strategy for designing therapies to promote healthier aging.
In a new study, researchers found that controlling certain lipids, known as resolvins, could reduce inflammation and prevented memory loss.
The research was conducted by a team at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and elsewhere.
The team says that humans have an ancient pathway that helps us return the damaged bodies to normal, which is known as the resolution response.
In this study, they can now engage this response with the specialized lipids and, in a more natural way, calm down long-term inflammation.
According the researchers, while the Down syndrome model does not produce the same brain ‘tangles’ that normally would be observed with Alzheimer’s disease, constant brain inflammation begins early in life and leads to similar neuronal damage.
In humans, long-term inflammation is often seen alongside other indicators of Alzheimer’s in the brain, but it is not yet known how these conditions get started.
Chronic brain inflammation typically leads to progressive memory loss.
Surprisingly, a sustained treatment regime with the lipid reversed memory loss in the Down syndrome model without having any adverse effects, reinforcing its role as a potential therapeutic.
The tragic progression of memory loss and dementia due to Alzheimer’s represents a breakdown of the brain’s ability to self-maintain and to limit wild fluctuations in condition.
However, self-maintenance can be disrupted by injuries, pathogens and sometimes by aging.
The disruption of self-maintenance can manifest as prolonged inflammation, which can result in devastating effects if left unchecked. Down syndrome is one such condition that can result in this sustained inflammation response.
Typically, the inflammation caused by a disease is resolved by the body naturally. However, when the body cannot do so, long-term inflammation can result.
With the body on high-alert but unable to rectify the problem, progressive damage can occur as our normal tissues are caught in the crossfire.
The team says gaining insights into the role of inflammation in a healthy brain could bring scientists closer to identifying key mechanisms in the body that are activated in response to damage and age.
Understanding how these mechanisms are activated could allow us to control the balances our bodies must achieve every day, leading to breakthroughs in regenerative medicine and potential new therapies that halt the progression of dementia.
The lead author of the study is Eric D. Hamlett, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at MUSC.
The study is published in Glia.
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