"Brain security" goes overboard

Overactive immune cells in the aging brain fuel neurodegeneration via inflammatory proteins

Not only neurons exist in the brain, but also immune cells, the microglia. These microglia form our "brain security" and protect the brain from pathogens. But with increasing age, the microglia, which are supposed to protect the brain, permanently raise the alarm and become chronically active. Inflammation occurs: this is an excessive immune reaction. The microglia turn against the brain and then secrete pro-inflammatory substances themselves. This violent over-activation in turn contributes to the progression of a neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer's  – because inflammatory processes in the brain accelerate neurodegeneration, i.e. the death of neurons.

Dr. Melania Capasso, group leader at the DZNE Bonn, shows in the Journal of Clinical Investigation (JCI) that microglia "turn up" inflammation with age by producing more proteins, especially inflammatory ones: The signal to produce more proteins is given by the so-called mTOR pathway, which is important in regulating aging and longevity. The study findings may contribute to the development of future therapies for neurodegenerative diseases that "mute" this signaling, thereby preventing excessive inflammation. On the JCI website, Melania Capasso talks about her findings in a video, which you can also find here:

Source: DZNE/Küffner

Original publication

mTOR-dependent translation amplifies microglia priming in aging mice
Lily Keane, … , Michael T. Heneka, Melania Capasso
J Clin Invest. (2021)
DOI: 10.1172/JCI132727.

January 2021

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