Inflammation and Alzheimer's
Gretchen Heuring for ElderThink
Alzheimer's actually causes inflammation. Researchers have long known that the presence of amyloid plaques in the brain stimulate an inflammatory response. Some of this news is good and some of it is bad. There is a delicate balance. I'll explain.
Amyloid plaques stimulate a type of immune cell called microglia. This cell then produces chemicals called cytokines which "turn on" the immune system. When this happens, the microglia can engulf and destroy amyloid plaques.
Well, this seems easy. Why don't we just get those microglia working to make us better? Well, there's a catch. Over stimulation can cause nerve cells in the brain to be attacked and destroyed. If we don't manage this aspect immune system just right, it overheats and cooks us. So researchers have a lot of work to do.
Scientists at the Roskamp Institute in Florida have learned a little more about Alzheimer's and inflammation. They have discovered a receptor called CXCR2 on the nerve cell surface that triggers more amyloid plaque production in response to inflammation. They are working toward development of a drug that can block the CXCR2 receptor.
Why Doesn't Inflammation Hurt?
If we have inflammation in our brains or parts of our bodies, why doesn't it hurt? Dr. Barry Sears says in his book, The Anti-Inflammation Zone , "Inflammation can be silent. It falls below the threshold of pain." So sometimes it is there inside us doing damage but we can't feel it.
What Other Ways Can Silent Inflammation Effect Us?
According to a report by the Cleveland Clinic, silent inflammation can affect the heart causing shortness of breath or leg swelling; it can affect the lungs causing an asthma attack; and it can cause high blood pressure or kidney failure.