Study gives hope for
July 15th 2005
The Human Brain
New research brings hope for early stage Alzheimer’s
sufferers. A new mutant protein called tau may be poisoning brain cells
in those affected with the disease. It is hoped that future research
will create a treatment that blocks tau.
Previous research has focused on another protein
called beta-amyloid. After this new study published in the journal of
Science Thursday, expect research to begin on treatments for blocking
According to the article the
brains of people with Alzheimer's and some 50 other forms of dementia
are known to have certain characteristic features, including messy
bundles of fibres in nerve cells called neurofibrillary tangles. But no
one has been sure whether the tangles are a cause or symptom of
It was found that mice engineered to overproduce the
tau protein tended to grow more of these tangles and displayed similar
symptoms to those with dementia. The researchers believe
that it is a certain version of
the tau protein, rather than a simple over-abundance, that leads to the
tangles. It is speculated that it is the tau protein that kills the
nerve cells not the tangles.
Karen Ashe, a neurobiologist
at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis, and her
colleagues hoped to untangle this mystery.
They used mice in maze studies to determine memory loss. When the tau
promoting switch was turned off, the mice regained some of their
memory. "To tell you the truth, I expected them not to be able to get
better," Ashe said.
The research gives credence to the idea that it is possible to reverse
dementia’s damage. The next step is determining the version of tau
protein that causes the problems.
There are about 4.5 million Americans with
Alzheimer’s. Ashe said
"We have to figure out the molecular form of tau that is poisoning the
neurons." That will give drug developers a better understanding of the
molecules they should target.
Best Syndication Staff Writer