Okay, folks, strap in. A recent study from Northwestern Medicine has raked up some spicy gossip in the health world. Apparently, the immune system in the blood of Alzheimer’s patients has been seen to be, drum roll, please… epigenetically altered! Mind-blowing, am I right? Turns out our habits or surroundings can put our genes on a wild rollercoaster ride, making them work like an octopus multitasking with its eight arms.
What’s more intriguing is that these party-loving immune genes are the same ones that increase our chances of getting Alzheimer’s. The gurus at Northwestern suspect this could be the aftereffects of a past viral infection, messing around in a polluted environment, or just our poor ol’ lifestyle. Talk about paying the price for your past mistakes!
David Gate, the Sherlock Holmes leading this investigation, says – “It’s possible that our findings are pointing fingers at the immune response from outside the brain. We are still debating whether these gene-makeovers are reacting to brain conditions or are they the uninvited guests causing the havoc.” Good question, Watson, err… I mean Gate!
Just so you know, this detective novel was published on Feb. 9 in Neuron.
Adding a twist to the plot, earlier research showed that many of the mutant genes making you better suited for the Alzheimer’s club are in the immune system. Scientists, however, were busy being, well, brainy, studying the immune system in the brain all this time. They seem to have conveniently forgotten their dear cousin – the immune system in the blood. Ah, family politics!
But Gate, the investigator with an edge, decided to study the blood. He and his trusty sidekicks found out that every immune cell in Alzheimer’s patients has gone through a gene-refresh, visible through open chromatin. Chromatin is basically the DNA-home inside cells. When the doors to this home are left wide open, you have a block party of genes with possibly some unwanted gatecrashers messing with the genomic harmony.
Being the sleuth he is, Gate uncovered that this receptor – CXCR3 – on the T cells partying was more exposed. This receptor is like an antenna on these T cells allowing them to join the party in the brain. T cells usually avoid the brain due to their potential to cause brain inflammation. Now, that’s a party we don’t want!
“The signal from the distressed brain seems to work like party-live-streaming, and these T cells are tuning into it using their fancy antenna, CXCR3”, Gate suggests.
Despite their reputation, T cells might not be just causing chaos. “I mean, they could very well be toxic in the brain, but what if they’re inside on a rescue mission, trying to fix the damage?”, Gate wonders.
Gate’s investigation also revealed that white blood cells called monocytes have had inflammatory protein makeovers.
“Adding it all up, it’s clear as day that the immune function in Alzheimer’s patients is on a funfair ride,” Gate asserts. “Triggers like pollutants or infections throughout their life could very well be the ringleaders of these gene parties.”
The plot arrived at a cliffhanger when the findings pointed at several genes that could be potential targets for tweaking the immune system. The sequel is expected to involve lab tests and animal models to see if these targets can be hit accurately. The anticipation is unreal!
Working with Gate in this intriguing investigation are Abhi Ramakrishnan, Natalie Piehl, and Brooke Simonton, along with Milan Parikh, Ziyang Zhang, Victoria Teregulova, and Lynn van Olst.
The title of this thrilling saga is “Epigenetic dysregulation in Alzheimer’s disease peripheral immunity,” fittingly dramatic, don’t you think?
Funding this intriguing detective endeavor are the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institute on Aging, Bright Focus Foundation, Alzheimer’s Association, and Cure Alzheimer’s Fund. The suspense continues…
Immune genes are altered in Alzheimer’s patients’ blood