Houston Methodist researchers in the Nantz National Alzheimer Center found that T-regulatory (T-reg) cells of Alzheimer’s patients lose their function to suppress inflammation. However, expanding these compromised T-reg cells in the laboratory restored the cells’ function and enhanced their ability to suppress inflammation, which is thought to play a major role in the development of the disease.


In a two-year study published in Brain Communication, principal investigators Dr. Alireza Faridar and Dr. Stanley Appel collected blood from 46 Alzheimer’s patients, as well as from 42 patients with mild cognitive impairment and 41 healthy control patients. Their hypothesis: can dysfunctional T-reg cells that spur the growth of Alzheimer’s be enhanced in a laboratory culture and their damage reversed?


“We found that ex-vivo (out-of-body) expansion of T-regulatory cells not only restores their function but also, remarkably, enhances their suppressive activity,” said Faridar. “Ultimately, T-regulatory cell therapy might be an option to modulate inflammation in Alzheimer’s patients.”


Research physicians believe the study’s findings could translate into future clinical trials.


“We know inflammation is a key player in Alzheimer’s disease, yet we have not been able to offer any viable new therapies in decades,” said Appel, Peggy & Gary Edwards Distinguished Endowed Chair in the Stanley H. Appel Department of Neurology at Houston Methodist. “This study provides data that we can translate to human clinical trials and, potentially, the first potential therapy to help reduce the progression of Alzheimer’s.”


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