How a hyperactive cell in the brain might trigger Alzheimer’s disease

Microglia, specialized cells like the one seen in the center of this image, can restrain the accumulation of beta-amyloid protein (plaques in orange) that are a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. But the cells sometimes contribute to the progression of the illness, researchers say.
Microglia are specialized macrophages that restrain the accumulation of ß-amyloid (plaques in orange). On the other side, once activated, they can have harmful influences in Alzheimer's disease, segregating inflammatory factors and mediating the engulfment of synapses.
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It all started with genetic data.

A gene here, a gene there.

Eventually the story became clearer: If scientists are to one day find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, they should look to the immune system.

Over the past couple decades, researchers have identified numerous genes involved in various immune system functions that may also contribute to Alzheimer’s.