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- Dystrophic (senescent) rather than activated microglial cells are associated with tau pathology and likely precede neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease (2009)
- The role of microglial cells in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) neurodegeneration is unknown. Although several works suggest that chronic neuroinflammation caused by activated microglia contributes to neurofibrillary degeneration, anti-inflammatory drugs do not prevent or reverse neuronal tau pathology. This raises the question if indeed microglial activation occurs in the human brain at sites of neurofibrillary degeneration. In view of the recent work demonstrating presence of dystrophic (senescent) microglia in aged human brain, the purpose of this study was to investigate microglial cells in situ and at high resolution in the immediate vicinity of tau-positive structures in order to determine conclusively whether degenerating neuronal structures are associated with activated or with dystrophic microglia. We used a newly optimized immunohistochemical method for visualizing microglial cells in human archival brain together with Braak staging of neurofibrillary pathology to ascertain the morphology of microglia in the vicinity of tau-positive structures. We now report histopathological findings from 19 humans covering the spectrum from none to severe AD pathology, including patients with Down’s syndrome, showing that degenerating neuronal structures positive for tau (neuropil threads, neurofibrillary tangles, neuritic plaques) are invariably colocalized with severely dystrophic (fragmented) rather than with activated microglial cells. Using Braak staging of Alzheimer neuropathology we demonstrate that microglial dystrophy precedes the spread of tau pathology. Deposits of amyloid-beta protein (A beta) devoid of tau-positive structures were found to be colocalized with non-activated, ramified microglia, suggesting that A beta does not trigger microglial activation. Our findings also indicate that when microglial activation does occur in the absence of an identifiable acute central nervous system insult, it is likely to be the result of systemic infectious disease. The findings reported here strongly argue against the hypothesis that neuroinflammatory changes contribute to AD dementia. Instead, they offer an alternative hypothesis of AD pathogenesis that takes into consideration: (1) the notion that microglia are neuron-supporting cells and neuroprotective; (2) the fact that development of non-familial, sporadic AD is inextricably linked to aging. They support the idea that progressive, aging-related microglial degeneration and loss of microglial neuroprotection rather than induction of microglial activation contributes to the onset of sporadic Alzheimer’s disease. The results have far-reaching implications in terms of reevaluating current treatment approaches towards AD.
- Staging of neurofibrillary pathology in Alzheimer's disease : a study of the BrainNet Europe Consortium (2008)
- It has been recognized that molecular classifications will form the basis for neuropathological diagnostic work in the future. Consequently, in order to reach a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease (AD), the presence of hyperphosphorylated tau (HP-tau) and beta-amyloid protein in brain tissue must be unequivocal. In addition, the stepwise progression of pathology needs to be assessed. This paper deals exclusively with the regional assessment of AD-related HP-tau pathology. The objective was to provide straightforward instructions to aid in the assessment of AD-related immunohistochemically (IHC) detected HP-tau pathology and to test the concordance of assessments made by 25 independent evaluators. The assessment of progression in 7-µm-thick sections was based on assessment of IHC labeled HP-tau immunoreactive neuropil threads (NTs). Our results indicate that good agreement can be reached when the lesions are substantial, i.e., the lesions have reached isocortical structures (stage V–VI absolute agreement 91%), whereas when only mild subtle lesions were present the agreement was poorer (I–II absolute agreement 50%). Thus, in a research setting when the extent of lesions is mild, it is strongly recommended that the assessment of lesions should be carried out by at least two independent observers.
- Parenchymal and vascular Aβ-deposition and its effects on the degeneration of neurons and cognition in Alzheimer's disease (2008)
- The deposition of the amyloid β-protein (Aβ) is one of the pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Aβ-deposits show the morphology of senile plaques and cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA). Senile plaques and vascular Aβ-deposits occur first in neocorti-cal areas. Then, they expand hierarchically into further brain regions. The distribution of Aβ plaques throughout the entire brain, thereby correlates with the clinical status of the patients. Imaging techniques for Aβ make use of the hierarchical distribution of Aβ to distinguish AD patients from non-AD patients. However, pathology seen in AD patients represents a late stage of a pathological process starting 10–30 years earlier in cognitively normal individuals. In addition to the fibrillar amyloid of senile plaques, oligomeric and monomeric Aβ is found in the brain. Recent studies revealed that oligomeric Aβ is presumably the most toxic Aβ-aggregate, which interacts with glutamatergic synapses. In doing so, dendrites are presumed to be the primary target for Aβ-toxicity. In addition, vascular Aβ-deposits can lead to capillary occlusion and blood flow disturbances presumably contributing to the alteration of neurons in addition to the direct neurotoxic effects of Aβ. All these findings point to an important role of Aβ and its aggregates in the neurodegenerative process of AD. Since there is already significant neuron loss in AD patients, treatment strategies aimed at reducing the amyloid load will presumably not cure the symptoms of dementia but they may stop disease progression. Therefore, it seems to be necessary to protect the brain from Aβ-toxicity already in stages of the disease with minor neuron loss before the onset of cognitive symptoms.