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Study gives hope for Alzheimer's Disease

July 15th 2005

Alzheimer's Disease Mice Tau study

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 tau also. 

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 dementia.


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.

By Dan Wilson
Best Syndication Staff Writer


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Copyright 2005 Best Syndication                                            Last Updated Saturday, July 10, 2010 09:40 PM