Systemic Inflammation: A Driver of Neurodegenerative Disease? | ALZFORUM

 Under healthy conditions, microglia look placid. They sit evenly spaced throughout the brain, processes extended, quietly doing their job of scanning for debris. When disease kicks in, these calm cells can transmogrify and end up doing more harm than good. As discussed at “Neuroinflammation in Diseases of the Central Nervous System,” a Keystone meeting held January 25-30 in Taos, New Mexico, the rabble-rousing signals that fire up microglia are not confined to the brain but also come from “below the neck,” said Hugh Perry of the University of Southampton in England. Whether triggered by acute infections or chronic disease, systemic inflammation may amplify microglial responses and exacerbate neurodegeneration, according to researchers at the meeting. They proposed ways to slow disease progression by soothing systemic inflammation.

The human body accumulates inflammatory battle scars as we age, whether through repeated assaults by microbial infections or chronic inflammatory diseases such as diabetes or atherosclerosis. Considering how systemic inflammation might alter the course of neurodegeneration is thus crucial, Perry said. “Old brains are attached to old bodies, and bodies tend to accumulate a lot of pathology over the years,” he said. At the meeting, Perry reported that this pathology primes microglia, making them prone to overreactions that could exacerbate neurodegeneration.

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