HealthDay News — An immune system disorder may play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, a mouse model suggests. 

Duke University researchers found that certain immune cells that normally protect the brain begin to abnormally consume arginine. In mice, treatment with a drug called difluoromethylornithine (DFMO) blocked these immune cells from consuming arginine and prevented the brain plaques and memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s. 

“If indeed arginine consumption is so important to the disease process, maybe we could block it and reverse the disease,” senior author Carol Colton, PhD, a professor of neurology and a member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, said in a Duke news release.

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DFMO is currently being tested in human clinical trials to treat some types of cancer, but has not been tested as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s. In this study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, DFMO was given to the mice before they developed Alzheimer’s symptoms. The researchers are now testing the use of the drug in mice after they develop Alzheimer’s symptoms.

“We see this study opening the doors to thinking about Alzheimer’s in a completely different way, to break the stalemate of ideas in Alzheimer’s disease,” Colton said. “The field has been driven by amyloid for the past 15, 20 years, and we have to look at other things because we still do not understand the mechanism of disease or how to develop effective therapeutics.”


  1. Kan MJ, et al. J Neurosci. 2015; doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4668-14.2015.