Testing an entirely new theory, doctors have found that the final “cleanup” phase of the inflammatory process may be disrupted in Alzheimer’s disease. In healthy individuals, when pathogens attack the body, the immune system releases infection-fighting cells which kill the invaders. Then, other “cleanup” molecules digest and clear the cell debris, and growth factors stimulate tissue repair. In Alzheimer’s disease, these cleanup and recovery molecules are at lower levels than in healthy people. In the study of 35 participants with mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease, and 21 healthy people, researchers also found a link between these lower levels of cleanup and recovery molecules and impaired memory function.
Discussing their findings, doctors said that stimulating the final cleanup phase of the inflammatory process may reduce brain nerve-cell death, slowing the disease and improving cognition. In the lab, they have begun testing how cleanup molecules may help preserve brain nerve function, and the most promising molecules they have found so far are from omega-3 fatty acids.