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Should the neuronal environment of the brain be genetically modified to treat some forms of neurodegeneration?

Problem: Neuro-degeneration: more specifically, the accumlation of protein tangles called plaques which occur in Alzheimers/ Dementia

Proposed Solution: Modifying native neuronal support cells (microglia) to target and break down the Plaques which may relieve the symptoms

1) Is it ethical for scientists to use genetic treatments which involve introducing new genes into native cells and injecting into the brain for the benefit of patients? 2) How much external intervention into the brain is appropriate?
3) Can we assess the risks for patients and the public at large?
4) Should valuable time and resources be allocated to this line of research?


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  • Aug 13 2013: Microglia are macrophages of the central nervous system. They can (and physiologically DO) "eat" entire neurons (if they are non-functioning). However, I can't see how can they eliminate plaques located INSIDE the neuron without engulfing and removing the entire neuron.

    Specifically manipulating the genome microgila cells is theoretically possible, though I can't see how would it help the plaque-infested neurons for the reason stated above.

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