The Role of Inflammation in Dementia

New research reveals that the role of inflammation in dementia is something worth pursuing in regards to the cause, prevention, and treatment of the progressive illness.

Inflammation such as swelling and redness can be described as the body’s response to stress, infection, or injury.

Neuroinflammation, on the other hand, is inflammation in the brain and it has been linked to multiple disorders such as psychosis, depression, and multiple sclerosis amongst others.

Inflammation, Dementia and Alzheimer’s

Additionally, inflammation has also been tied to Alzheimer’s disease one of the most common causes of dementia.

inflammation dementia and alzheimer's

Several studies have been conducted to look into the relationship between dementia and inflammation.

Below we will discuss two major studies that have been done to explain the role of inflammation in dementia.

Study on Increased Inflammation and the Risk of Dementia

A study from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland uncovered that people who have an increase in inflammation especially during midlife have bigger abnormalities in the brain’s white matter which affects cognitive function and possibly leads to the development of dementia.

study on increased inflammation and the risk of dementia

Find out more about this study and how it contributes to dementia prevention and research.

Details of the Study

The study from Johns Hopkins analyzed data from 1633 participants for an average of 24 years.

The researchers tracked levels of C-reactive proteins which is a blood biomarker of inflammation. The primary aim of doing this was to look into the relationship this biomarker has with dementia.

During the study period, the participants visited the researchers 5 times for an average of three years. After the first visit, researchers collected blood samples from the participants to measure inflammation levels as shown by C-reactive protein.

The professionals also conducted an MRI scan during the last visit to view the white matter damage in the brain.

The participants also went through various memory tests at the end of the study period.

Results of the Study

Researchers discovered that 90 participants who suffered chronic inflammation had the most white matter damage in the brain.

the role of inflammation in dementia

White matter carries information between nerve cells. When the white matter is damaged it can cause cognitive decline which may lead to dementia.

Interpretation of the Study Results

When looking into the role of inflammation in dementia, the researchers believed that the study suggests a causal relationship between the development of dementia and chronic inflammation.

Several factors can lead to chronic inflammation including:

Researchers, however, state that this study is observational; hence, more research needs to be done to establish the specific relationship between dementia and inflammation.

The senior author of the study Dr. Rebecca Gottesman stated that the research the team did was important because there are currently limited treatment options for neurodegenerative illnesses.

She continued to say that inflammation is one of the reversible factors that can prevent or prolong the onset of the disease.

Gottesman tasked researchers with coming up with ways to reduce inflammation to reduce neurodegeneration and cognitive decline.

Relationship between Inflammation and Multiple Dementia Types

relationship between inflammation and multiple dementia types
Another study found that there is a link between inflammation in the brain and several dementia forms.

This research observed persons who had frontotemporal dementia (FTD) which is normally caused by a build-up of “junk” proteins in the brain.

FTD is a general term that refers to various dementia types that affect the temporal or frontal lobes of the brain. The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Cambridge and published in the journal Brain.

Scientists conducted the study to investigate whether neuroinflammation occurs in different forms of dementia. Take a closer look into the details of the research.

Participants of the Study

Researchers observed 31 patients all of who had different types of frontotemporal dementia. FTD can be described as a family of various conditions that result from the accumulation of abnormal “junk” proteins in the brain.

The professionals performed brain scans on all the participants to detect junk proteins and inflammation. This was done through 2 PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scans.

Each of these used an injection with a chemical dye that lights up special molecules that help to reveal the brains’ junk proteins or inflammatory cells.

10 of the participants had a behavioral variant of the condition, ten had the nonfluent variant, and the rest had the semantic variant.

The researchers compared results they got from the participants with those of another group that comprised healthy control participants.

This is a move they made to help them pinpoint characteristics specific to persons with a type of FTD.

Results of the Study

The researchers noted that in all 3 types of frontotemporal dementia, inflammation was linked to the build-up of harmful abnormal proteins in different parts of the brain.

Even though the diseases are different from each other, the role of inflammation in dementia was apparent.

This implies that inflammation is a part of many neurodegenerative diseases including Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

The results offer hope that immune-based treatments may help prevent or even slow down the conditions. Scientists, however, acknowledge that more research still needs to be done to convert this knowledge of inflammation in dementia into treatments that can be tested.

Inflammation in Dementia Closing Thoughts

Researchers continue to pay close attention to the role of inflammation in dementia.

The ties between inflammation and dementia could lead to the development of new treatments that can help people with neurodegenerative diseases.

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