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Alzheimer’s disease researchers solve mystery of beguiling protein

Leading neuroscientists have clarified the role of a controversial immune system protein in Alzheimer’s disease, showing it has opposing effects in early and late stages of the disease. Their discovery unites previous studies that left researchers conflicted and showed the protein both exacerbates and ameliorates disease symptoms. The updated model of disease progression, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, also highlights the need to align certain therapies with disease stages when treating the 1 in 9 Americans over 65 living with Alzheimer’s.

The protein in question is TREM2, or triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells 2. It sits on the surfaces of immune cells in the brain and helps sense changes in the brain microenvironment. During Alzheimer’s disease, TREM2 helps recruit immune cells to respond to toxic “amyloid” protein plaques that often form in the brain. But, the sudden influx of cells can also cause destructive effects in the brain and make things worse.

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