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Alzheimer's Disease: A Case of Mistaken Identity?

In a new study published today (July 22) in the July issue of the journal Cell Host & Microbe, UC Davis researchers report that both amyloid plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer's patients and structures made by some gut bacteria likely elicit the same response by human immune cells.

"Alzheimer's disease may be a case of mistaken identity," said Andreas Bäumler, a professor of microbiology and medical immunology. Bäumler and his colleagues showed that the immune systems of mice injected with E. coli and salmonella are triggered by curli fibrils, fiber-like structures consisting of curli proteins that allow bacteria to stick to host tissue and to each other, forming colonies.

Curli fibrils are morphologically identical to amyloid fibrils found in Alzheimer's plaques. When they presented human cells with the two kinds of fibrils, they saw the same immune response -- even though the two have nothing in common in their amino acid sequences.

"Our results suggest that it's the structure of these protein aggregates that matter and that, to the innate immune system, Alzheimer's plaques may look like colonies of bacteria. This would result in the chronic inflammation we see in Alzheimer's disease that damages neurons," Bäumler explained.

Via UC Davis press release
 
 

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