The interaction between short beta-amyloid proteins and the immune system

Lead Investigator: Professor Florian Kern

Institution: University of Sussex

Grant type: PhD

Start Date: October 2011

Completion Date: July 2015

Amount: £75,000

Scientific Title: Immune responses to amyloid-beta and post-translationally modified variants

What was the project, and what did the researchers do?

Amyloid is a protein that accumulates in the brain of people affected by Alzheimer's disease. The build-up causes damage to brain cells and drives progression of the disease. Evidence has shown that the immune system plays a role in how the brain cells respond to the accumulated amyloid  although it is so far unclear exactly what this role is.

Professor Kern's team were interested in how the body's immune system responds to the amyloid protein. They planned to study how small variations in the amyloid protein may affect how the immune system senses and responds to the presence of the protein. These small variations are very common and part of the way that the proteins are made in the cell.

The researchers carried out a very large number of experiments, exposing different immune cells to a range of amyloid proteins. 

What were the key results, and how will this help in the fight against dementia?

Professor Kern and his PhD student were not able to carry out all of the experiments that they had initially set out to. The amyloid proteins used in the experiments produced inconsistent responses from the immune cells. This meant that they could not draw any conclusions from the results of their experiments. 

The researchers believe that impurities in the samples of amyloid proteins caused the inconsistencies in their results. They suggested that these impurities unavoidable due to the nature of how the amyloid is made in the lab. This finding is potentially important and may inform how amyloid is used in future studies similar to this one, helping ensure that these experiments are an accurate representation of the underlying causes of Alzheimer's.

What happened next? Future work and additional grants

This work has opened a new line of research into how to use amyloid protein when researching interactions between amyloid protein and the immune response. Professor Kern plans to apply for more funding to explore this subject.

How were people told about the results? Conferences and publications:

Papers:

The team are preparing a paper to be submitted to a peer reviewed journal in light of these results.

Posters:

The role of toll-like receptors in recognition of amyloid beta. BMS research day, Brighton, 2013

The role of toll-like receptor 2 and 4 in the recognition of amyloid beta. British Society for Immunology congress, Brighton, 2014

Conferences and presentations:

Toll-like receptor 2 is activated by fibrillar Amyloid-beta 1-42. MSMS research day. Brighton 2014.

Immune responses to amyloid beta. Alzheimer's Society research meeting. London, 2014