Alzheimer's Disease And Inflammation

By: Jody Smith

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is linked with chronic low level inflammation. This is also known as silent inflammation or systemic inflammation.

It is not known whether chronic inflammation is a cause of Alzheimer's disease, or whether it is, instead, an effect. It is known that higher inflammation is a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease and its presence is a warning that Alzheimer’s disease may be around the corner or may already be on the scene.

Inflammation isn't always a villain. It is normally a protection proffered by the body's immune response, intended to protect the body from illness and injury. Inflammation at its best is a response of the immune system whose uncomfortable byproducts are pain, redness, heat, and swelling.

White blood cells are activated, and chemicals that attack toxins and infection are produced. Extra blood is supplied to the injury or infection, and chemotactic peptides (a type of cytokine), neutrophils (a type of white blood cell) and mononuclear (having one nucleus) cells are introduced.

Macrophages (another type of white blood cell), neutrophils and other phagocytic cells (cells that consume toxins) attack invaders in order to keep the infection contained and prevent it from spreading.

When the immune response of inflammation does its job and resolves the problem, this is the body's defenses at their best. Sometimes though, inflammation doesn't resolve and continues to do damage to the body it was meant to protect.

Inflammation of the glial cells are another feature that appears in cases of AD. Glial cells are the brain's immune cells.

Glial cells release inflammatory mediators that can poison nerve cells. Inflammatory mediators are molecules that immune cells will release in response to toxic invaders.

Speculation suggests that in regards to Alzheimer's disease, inflammatory mediators can worsen the build up of plaques, a trademark of AD.

Research in the journal Neuron, points to a correlation between the deterioration associated with Alzheimer's disease and neuroinflammation, which is inflammation of a nerve, or of parts of the nervous system.

Research reported on Neurology.org involved 300 participants with mild to severe AD. About half of the participants had acute (sudden onset) systemic inflammatory events, associated with higher serum levels of proinflammatory cytokine TNF-α and twice as much loss of cognitive function within six months.

Where baseline levels of TNF-α were higher, so was the rate of cognitive loss. Where levels of serum TNF-α were lower, cognitive function remained the same.

The study concluded that higher levels of cognitive dysfunction from Alzheimer's disease was linked with acute systemic inflammation as well as chronic (long-term) systemic inflammation.

Sources:

The Inflammation Factor

http://inflammationfactor.com/

Definition of Inflammation

http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=3979

Alzheimer's Disease and Inflammation - Pritam Das

http://mayoresearch.mayo.edu/mayo/research/das-lab

Inflammatory mediator enhances plaque formation in Alzheimer's disease

http://www.dementiatoday.net/article/enhances-plaque-formation-in-alzheimers-disease/

Inflammatory mediators

http://groups.molbiosci.northwestern.edu/holmgren/Glossary/Definitions/Def-I/inflammatory_mediators.html

Systemic inflammation and disease progression in Alzheimer disease

http://www.neurology.org/content/73/10/768.abstract

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