Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
Neurodegeneration, the slow and progressive dysfunction and loss of neurons and axons in the central nervous system, is the primary pathological feature of acute and chronic neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, neurotropic viral infections, stroke, paraneoplastic disorders, traumatic brain injury and multiple sclerosis. Despite different triggering events, a common feature is chronic immune activation, in particular of microglia, the resident macrophages of the central nervous system. Apart from the pathogenic role of immune responses, emerging evidence indicates that immune responses are also critical for neuroregeneration.
In addition, there is an increasing recognition that inflammation plays a critical role in neurodegenerative diseases of the CNS, including Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and the prototypic neuroinflammatory disease multiple sclerosis (MS). Differential immune responses involving the adaptive versus the innate immune system are observed at various stages of neurodegenerative diseases, and may not only drive disease processes but could serve as therapeutic targets. Ongoing investigations into the specific inflammatory mechanisms that play roles in disease causation and progression have revealed lessons about inflammation-driven neurodegeneration that can be applied to other neurodegenerative diseases.