Preprint Hypothesis Version 2 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

The Glial Aging & Senescence Hypothesis of Late-onset Alzheimer’s

Version 1 : Received: 23 September 2021 / Approved: 24 September 2021 / Online: 24 September 2021 (14:08:13 CEST)
Version 2 : Received: 4 March 2022 / Approved: 7 March 2022 / Online: 7 March 2022 (14:22:25 CET)

How to cite: Lau, V.; Ramer, L.; Tremblay, M. The Glial Aging & Senescence Hypothesis of Late-onset Alzheimer’s. Preprints 2021, 2021090437. Lau, V.; Ramer, L.; Tremblay, M. The Glial Aging & Senescence Hypothesis of Late-onset Alzheimer’s. Preprints 2021, 2021090437.


Alzheimer’s disease (AD) predominantly occurs as a late-onset form (LOAD), involving neurodegeneration and cognitive decline with progressive memory loss. Over time, risk factors and aging promote accumulation of well-known AD pathologies in oxidative stress, amyloid-beta and tau protein pathology, as well as inflammation. Homeostatic glial functions regulate and suppress these AD pathologies; however, other glial states involve increased pro-inflammatory cytokine release and further pathology accumulation. Different stresses can additionally induce cellular senescence, or an irreversible differentiation process resulting in decreased supportive functions and increased, pro-inflammatory cytokine release. While these pathophysiological underpinnings all contribute to LOAD, they require temporal and mechanistic integration. This perspective hypothesizes that when individuals have threshold senescent glia accumulation, they transition from healthy cognition into mild cognitive impairment and LOAD diagnosis. Particularly, senescent microglia are predicted to represent a final threshold required for the tau pathology burden and spreading that corresponds to sustained neurodegeneration and dementia severity. We first explore age-related decline in glia that promote increases in AD pathologies, and then discuss emerging evidence linking oxidative stress, neurons containing tau pathology, and amyloid-beta to microglia, oligodendrocyte progenitor cell, and astrocyte senescence. Our hypothesis proposes that senescent astrocytes and oligodendrocyte progenitors pressure microglia to phagocytose neurons containing tau pathology. The resulting senescent microglia would form neuritic plaques and induce paracrine senescence transitioning into a progressive clinical dementia presentation. This predictive hypothesis can potentially account for why medications used to treat LOAD fail, as previous treatments have not reduced senescent glial burden. It is also coherent with the predominant hypotheses surrounding LOAD, generates testable hypotheses about LOAD, and increases rationale in testing senolytics as targeted treatments for LOAD arrest and reversal.


Alzheimer's; Cellular senescence; Neurodegeneration; Microglia; Astrocytes; Oligodendrocyte Progenitor Cells; TREM2; Braak staging; Oxidative stress; Phapoptosis; Amyloid-beta; Tau; Neuritic plaques


Biology and Life Sciences, Aging

Comments (1)

Comment 1
Received: 7 March 2022
Commenter: Victor Lau
Commenter's Conflict of Interests: Author
Comment: Updated version after first round of peer review. Blue text reflects new changes.
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