For some time now Alzheimer’s studies have been aimed mainly on a protein in the brain called amyloid beta, which causes a kind of plaque seen in Alzheimer’s patients. Unfortunately, drugs geared towards lowering amyloid have had little to no luck in curing the memory loss related to Alzheimer’s. This has left scientists stumped with no new theories about how to combat the disease.
Hope is on the horizon however, with a renewed focus on another lesser-studied protein in the brain called tau. In fact, a new study published in Georgetown University Medical Center suggests that instead of concentrating on one or the other, both amyloid and tau may be, in a sense, conspiring to deteriorate cell function in the brain.
While it was once believed that tau was found solely inside brain cells, it is now understood that it can also move outside the cells and even switch from one cell to another. Complicating matters, it was discovered that tau comes in different forms. The most common is healthy and helpful to the brain, helping it to perform. The other variety of tau (called tau oligomer) occurs in Alzheimer’s patients and seems to be toxic.
An blog post from NPR details how this theory was tested:
…a team of scientists injected tau oligomers from people with Alzheimer's into the brains of healthy mice. Within a week the mice developed memory problems; tissue samples showed toxic tau throughout the animals' brains.”
This could mean that the introduction of toxic tau leads to the contamination of the healthy tau protein as well.
More research is needed, of course. Interestingly, it has now been found in patients with head traumas and as well as Alzheimer’s disease. In both cases the protein appears to work towards corroding memory over time.
If we could figure out how to stop that spread, maybe one could limit the disease to just some brain regions instead of having it go everywhere.”
Now that scientists like Mucke understand this piece of the puzzle, they can set about working towards finding a cure aimed at both tau and amyloid betas. What we at Wellness Warrior hope most for is the answer to prevent Alzheimer’s altogether, rather that deal with it after detection. This could be another step toward that.
TAU, NOT AMYLOID-BETA, TRIGGERS NEURONAL DEATH PROCESS IN ALZHEIMER’S via Georgetown University Medical Center
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