Scientists at Oregon Health and Science University have made an important discovery that could enhance our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Through their research, they have identified a new cause for these diseases that affect cognitive functioning.
The study looked at post-mortem human brain tissue from dementia patients and found that a type of cell death called ferroptosis, caused by an accumulation of iron in cells, destroys a type of cell involved in the brain’s immune response known as microglia cells. This degeneration of microglia may play a role in the cognitive decline seen in Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia patients.
Microglia are brain cells that remove cellular waste as part of the body’s immune system. They are responsible for cleaning up debris when myelin, the protective covering for the brain’s nerve fibers, is damaged. However, the researchers discovered that microglia are destroyed while removing myelin, which is rich in iron. This form of cell death, ferroptosis, is implicated in the deterioration of microglia and may contribute to the cognitive decline seen in these diseases.
The study’s findings offer hope for the development of improved technologies to slow the progression of dementia. Targeted therapies aimed at repairing myelin and preventing microglial degeneration could have a significant impact on the treatment of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.
Pharmaceutical companies are expected to take an interest in these findings, with the aim of developing compounds that can lessen the degeneration of microglia in the brain. This discovery has the potential to stimulate exciting advancements in therapeutics in the future.
– Study published in the Annals of Neurology
– Dr. Stephen Back, senior author of the study, Oregon Health and Science University
– Medical News Today