B-amyloid proteins—known as sticky plaques—are widely seen in the brain of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, but new research has found they are a natural antibiotic that protects the brain after infection, such as from Salmonella.
It was thought that the plaques were causing the brain problems, but researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital believe they are playing a positive role. If true, dementia and Alzheimer’s could even be the end-point of infection. “This widely held view (that sticky plaques cause Alzheimer’s) has guided therapeutic strategies and drug development for more than 30 years, but our findings suggest that this view is incomplete,” said lead researcher Dr Robert Moir.
The researchers have been criticised because their research thus far has been restricted to animal studies, and especially genetically-modified mice and worms, but their discoveries are fascinating, and could well throw new light on the role of the plaques and brain disease.