Published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers used mice to come to their new findings. Previous study suggested that amyloid plaques and tangles of tau proteins in the brain worked together to develop Alzheimer’s. But researchers now say these two components in the brain are getting help from other cells.
The immune cell, called microglia, is supposed to protect the brain. But in the case of Alzheimer’s, this cell actually starts to weaken the immune system. Within laboratory mice that had Alzheimer’s, the microglia increases the amount of an anzyme called arginase. When this occurs, it depletes arginine, an essential amino acid to nerve cells.
Researchers hypothesize that if there was a way to block the increase of arginase then that could be a means of treating Alzheimer’s. They also conclude that arginine is important for the health of nerve cells. So it may seem as easy as supplementing the body with arginine, but unfortunately, as the researchers point out, dietary arginine does not get absorbed to the brain, so you cannot use it to boost your brain health.
Researchers are optimistic about their discovery, but are aware that response in mice does not always translate to treatment on humans. We do see it as a hopeful stepping stone bringing us closer to an exact cause of Alzheimer’s.