A Leuven research team led by Prof Bart De Strooper, UK DRI Director, studied how specialised brain cells called microglia respond to the accumulation of toxic proteins in the brain, a feature typical of Alzheimer’s disease. The three major disease risk factors for Alzheimer’s—age, sex and genetics—all affect microglia response, raising the possibility that drugs that modulate this response could be useful for treatment.
One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease is the presence of so-called amyloid plaques in the brain. Research suggests that these plaques trigger a series of processes in which microglia play a central role. Microglia are specialised brain cells that act as the first and main form of immune defence in the brain.