There are currently no effective therapeutics for Alzheimer disease (AD). Clinical trials targeting amyloid beta thus far have shown very little benefit and only in the earliest stages of disease. These limitations have driven research to identify alternative therapeutic targets, one of the most promising is the triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells 2 (TREM2). Areas covered: Here, we review the literature to-date and discuss the potentials and pitfalls for targeting TREM2 as a potential therapeutic for AD. We focus on research in animal and cell models for AD and central nervous system injury models which may help in understanding the role of TREM2 in disease. Expert opinion: Studies suggest TREM2 plays a key role in AD pathology; however, results have been conflicting about whether TREM2 is beneficial or harmful. More research is necessary before designing TREM2-targeting therapies. Successful therapeutics will most likely be administered early in disease.