Studying a Possible Treatment to Alzheimer’s
(November 2013) While people with Down syndrome are almost certain to develop the pathological brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease, those with rheumatoid arthritis tend to avoid the disease.
Scientists long assumed their reduced risk was somehow linked to the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) they took for pain, but recent clinical trials have cast doubt on that theory. Meanwhile, Huntington Potter, PhD, director of Alzheimer’s disease programs for the University of Colorado, has been pursuing a different explanation with hopeful results.
“I always preferred to believe that they had an inherent protection—that maybe they were making an anti-inflammatory molecule that failed to protect them from rheumatoid arthritis, but in the end protected them from Alzheimer’s,” says Potter.
In recent years, Potter and his colleagues have identified that molecule—granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor, or GM-CSF—and, through animal and laboratory studies, gotten a better sense of what it can do in the brain. “It can stimulate the bone marrow to make cells that get into the brain, eat up amyloid deposits, promote nerve cell survival and promote connections,” Potter says.