Posted on Mar 25, 2011, 6 a.m.
Caspases, a family of enzymes, play a role in the inflammatory process associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases.
Neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, are partly attributable to brain inflammation. Specifically, previous studies suggest that the overactivation of microglial cells – the nerve system's primary immune cells – causes inflammation, resulting in neuronal death. Bertrand Joseph, from Karolinska Institutet (Sweden), and colleagues studied cell cultures and mice, finding that certain caspases (3, 7 and 8) activate microglial cells, which triggers an inflammatory reaction. Mice given caspase inhibitors displayed fewer activated microglia and less inflammation and cell death in the surrounding neurons. As well, the team examined samples from deceased Alzheimer's and Parkinson's patients, and discovered a higher incidence of activated caspases in their microglial cells. The researchers developed a way to block caspases, thereby preventing the activation of the microglia and consequently the inflammation they cause, concluding that: “inhibition of these caspases could be neuroprotective by targeting the microglia.”
Miguel A. Burguillos, Tomas Deierborg, Edel Kavanagh, Annette Persson, Nabil Hajji, Albert Garcia-Quintanilla, Josefina Cano, Patrik Brundin, Elisabet Englund, Jose L. Venero, Bertrand Joseph. “Caspase signaling controls microglia activation and neurotoxicity.” Nature, 9 March 2011.