After many years of obstacles on the way to treatment of Alzheimer’s, a brain protein called tau made it possible for researchers to be optimistic again.
For years researchers focused on a brain protein called amyloid beta that is responsible for the plaques that are related to Alzheimer’s. They made drugs that lower amyloid. Nevertheless, they have failed to stop the Alzheimer’s disease. When scientists realized that amyloid was not going to be the solution, they have broadened their focus, and came up with some astonishing findings. Their change of focus was now directed at another brain protein: tau. Tau causes the tangles that form in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. This year during the Society for Neuroscience meeting there were more than a hundred papers written on tau.
“Initially it was thought that tau was purely inside brain cells, but now we recognize that it can actually exist outside of cells and even transfer from one cell to the next.” says Dr. Lennart Mucke, a neurologist from Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease. “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.”
Tau’s ability to spread from one cell to another brings an idea to mind: . “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.”
Tau actually helps the brain function, however, for an unknown reason it takes on another toxic form. This toxic form, also known as the oligomer, participates in the spread of Alzheimer’s and people with traumatic brain injury. In both situations it leads to memory problems over time.
To obtain more details about the role of tau in memory problems, scientists injected tau oligomers into the brains of healthy mice. Within a week, they observed memory problems in the mice’s brains.