Although neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease are not classically considered mediated by inflammation or the immune system, in some instances the immune system may play an important role in the degenerative process. Furthermore, it has become clear that the immune system itself may have beneficial effects in nervous system diseases considered neurodegenerative. Immunotherapeutic approaches designed to induce a humoral immune response have recently been developed for the treatment of of Alzheimer's disease. These studies have led to human trials that resulted in both beneficial and adverse effects. In animal models, it has also been shown that immunotherapy designed to induce a cellular immune response may be of benefit in central nervous system injury, although T cells may have either a beneficial or detrimental effect depending on the type of T cell response induced. These areas provide a new avenue for exploring immune system-based therapy of neurodegenerative diseases and will be discussed here with a primary focus on Alzheimer's disease. We will also discuss how these approaches affect microglia activation, which plays a key role in therapy of such diseases.
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