Inside Job: Fighting Alzheimer’s Disease with Your Own Immune System
Alzheimer’s disease has proven to be one of medicine’s greatest mysteries and challenges. With no new treatments approved since 2004 and another late-stage failure earlier this year, many are taking a hard look at long-held assumptions about the disease and rethinking theories of how Alzheimer’s disease destroys the brain.
At Lundbeck, we are actively pursuing multiple Alzheimer’s research avenues to better understand the underlying biology and identify opportunities to alter the course of the disease. For example, in collaboration with external partners, we are examining how activating a person’s own immune system could modify the disease processes.
“Your immune system is your body’s natural defense system, and it works through immune cells to keep you healthy,” explains Ayodeji Asuni, PhD, discovery project leader and principal scientist at Lundbeck. “We’re using antibodies to modulate innate immunity and inflammation to alter the way in which particular brain immune cells handle Alzheimer’s-related proteins. We are basically trying to use our natural immune system to combat Alzheimer’s disease.”
If we are successful in making this work in humans, it could have a significant impact on our research and development of potential new treatments.
This novel approach may provide new perspectives on potential treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. “Normally you would like to avoid inflammation, but under the right circumstances it might have a positive treatment effect," says Dr. Asuni, who has been working on the project since 2017. His hope is to infuse the Alzheimer’s research field with new knowledge – and renewed hope. “This approach has not been used to treat Alzheimer’s disease before, so if we are successful in making this work in humans, it could have a significant impact on our research and development of potential new treatments.”
Rather than being discouraged by the spate of Alzheimer’s setbacks, Dr. Asuni remains optimistic about the possibility of research breakthroughs. “We continually have to challenge ourselves, our thinking and what is the accepted norm in relation to immunology and the human brain, he says. “That is the only way to discover and further develop novel treatments to help patients with brain disease even better than today.”
Image: National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services