Author(s): McGeer PL, McGeer EG
Abstract Cultured brain cells are capable of generating many molecules associated with inflammatory and immune functions. They constitute the endogenous immune response system of brain. They include complement proteins and their regulators, inflammatory cytokines, acute phase reactants and many proteases and protease inhibitors. Most of the proteins are made by microglia and astrocytes, but even neurons are producers. Many appear in association with Alzheimer disease lesions, indicating a state of chronic inflammation in Alzheimer disease brain. Such a state can apparently exist without stimulation by peripheral inflammatory mediators or the peripheral immune system. A strong inflammatory response may be autotoxic to neurons, exacerbating the fundamental pathology in Alzheimer disease and perhaps other neurological disorders. Autotoxic processes may contribute to cellular death in chronic inflammatory diseases affecting other parts of the body, suggesting the general therapeutic value of anti-inflammatory agents. With respect to Alzheimer disease, multiple epidemiological studies indicate that patients taking anti-inflammatory drugs or suffering from conditions in which such drugs are routinely used, have a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer disease. In one very preliminary clinical trial, the anti-inflammatory drug indomethacin arrested progress of the disease. New agents directed against the inflammatory processes revealed in studies of Alzheimer disease lesions may have broad therapeutic applications.