A group of researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) conducted an Alzheimer’s study that yielded one of the most advanced models of the disease to date.
MGH’s new model consists of a culture of human brain stem cells that display signs of neuroinflammation, according to Newsweek. This is a key component of the disease and leads to the death of brain cells. The culture of human brain stem cells also includes glial cells, which surround, support and insulate nerve cells in the brain. Original aspects from a previous Alzheimer’s model were incorporated, as well.
“Our original ‘Alzheimer’s in a dish’ system recapitulated the plaques and tangles typically seen in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, but did not induce neuroinflammation,” Rudolph Tanzi said in a statement. He is director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at the MGH Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease and co-senior author of the latest paper.
“Studies have shown that we can have many plaques and tangles in our brains with no symptoms, but when neuroinflammation kicks in, exponentially more neurons die and cognitive impairment leading to dementia is induced. A complete model of Alzheimer’s pathology needs to incorporate that ‘third leg of the stool.’”
MGH’s new model does just that. And with the model, researchers discovered that blocking two receptors in a certain type of glial cell could prevent neuroinflammation. This opens up better opportunities to explore new drugs.
“This system should help us better understand the timeline by which pathological events lead to dementia and enable us to screen for drugs that stop plaque deposition, tangle formation and the resultant neuroinflammation,” Tanzi said.