“A protein produced in arthritis “appears to protect against the development of Alzheimer’s disease,” BBC News has reported. Its website says that US research on mice has discovered that a protein called GM-CSF, produced in rheumatoid arthritis, may trigger the immune system to destroy the protein plaques found in Alzheimer’s.
This research used mice that had been genetically engineered to have a condition similar to Alzheimer’s. It found that these mice performed better in tests of memory and learning after they had been given a GM-CSF injection for 20 days. The protein also helped normal mice to improve their performance in the tests. After the injections, the mouse brains also contained increased levels of microglial cells, types of cells that engulf debris and foreign organisms. It is possible that these microglial cells could combat the build-up of amyloid proteins that characterise Alzheimer’s disease.
The findings help to further the understanding of how rheumatoid disease may offer some protection against the development of Alzheimer’s. However, it remains to be seen whether this research could be a first step towards investigating GM-CSF as a potential treatment, which will now need further testing.