NORMAL, Ill. (WEEK) — The National Institutes of Health are granting nearly $300,000 to an Illinois State University researcher to look into the links between the immune system and Alzheimer’s disease.
The grant will fund Nathan Moritmer’s research into a protein called amyloid beta, which is believed to accumulate in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
“The question of how the immune response influences disease progression is a fairly new area in Alzheimer’s research,” said Mortimer in a news release. “We’re hoping to add a piece to that puzzle for researchers.”
Mortimer and his research team believe A-beta plays a role in the body’s “innate” immune system, or first line of defense. In an experiment, fruit flies lost their immune responses to infection when A-beta was removed. However, when human A-beta was added, the flies developed an auto-immune disorder.
“The cells started attacking the tissue in response to human A-beta,” said Mortimer. “This means the immune cells recognize A-beta, and that’s why it can trigger a response.”
The grant will also help Mortimer’s team look at a parasite that blocks the interaction of A-beta and the immune system.