Italian researchers relate inflammation to cognitive disabilities
Cognitive disorders are alterations or dysfunctions of cognitive functions (attention, memory, perception, reasoning) caused by organic causes such as brain traumas, brain lesions, medicinal product, drug or alcohol abuse, myocardial infarction, which damage the functioning of the so-called “rational” activities of psyche.
Cognitive disorders are of organic origin and can be divided, based on clinical experience, into two main groups: disorders at birth and disorders caused by brain damage or dementia.
In the first case, when the disorder is present at birth, we know that there is an association between neurodevelopmental disorders and genetic abnormalities related to the production of proteins that act on brain synapses.
A study conducted by Humanitas and Neuroscience Institute of the National Research Council (IN-CNR), in collaboration with Universidad Miguel Hernández lnstituto de Neurociencias, published in the prestigious eLife journal, related, for the first time, high inflammation levels with the expression of MeCP2 protein, involved in children neurological developmental disorders characterized by serious physical and mental disabilities such as Rett’s syndrome and MeCP2 duplication syndrome.
“We have shown that excessive inflammation increases the levels of MeCP2, a protein involved in neurodevelopmental diseases. By inhibiting a key inflammation molecule by an interleuchin-1 beta receptor antagonist, an anti-inflammatory drug already used in the clinical practice, we managed to correct MeCP2 levels as well as many synapses defects that characterize neurodevelopmental disorders, thus normalizing learning disabilities”, explained Michela Matteoli, Director of IN-CNR, affiliated to the Neuro Center of Humanitas and professor of Pharmacology at Humanitas University.
In the absence of a clear genetic cause, the researchers’ idea was to focus on inflammation (a morbid state due to the defensive reaction of the body against noxious stimuli, also called phlogosis) that is thought to be one of the most probable factors that can modify the risk and severity of developmental disorders.
In particular, authors investigated, only at laboratory and without clinical evidence so far, the way in which inflammation affects synapses which generate 'synaptopathies', i.e. neurodevelopmental disorders.
“The development of synaptopathies”, continues Matteoli, study coordinator, “underlies the altered activity of synapses monitoring all abilities, including cognitive ones such as learning, attention, perception, decision-making. It is therefore crucial to identify factors, genetic and not, which can compromise their function”.
“This important discovery”, concluded Alberto Mantovani, Scientific Director of Humanitas and professor at Humanitas University, one of the study authors, “could help reduce cognitive disabilities and improve the quality of life of young patients with self-inflammatory diseases characterized by cognitive deficits”.