Why do some immune responses meant to protect people wind up inflicting damage on their brains by killing off nerve cells?
Investigators at NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) asked that question and came up with new evidence to ID a key culprit involved in the death of neurons and the development of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.
After developing a mouse model for stimulating toll-like receptors on neurons, they concluded that the receptors specifically triggered the death of neurons by activating a protein known as SARM1.
The protein spurred the death of neurons by interfering with mitochondria, which create the energy cells require to survive. And it should offer a prime target for drug developers active in the field of neurodegeneration.
The same team has already established how SARM1 works to kill off neurons in the event of a viral infection in the brain. This new research shows how the same process works in the absence of a viral infection.
Their study was published in The Journal of Immunology.