In a new study from Karolinska Institutet, researchers compared how well different Alzheimer’s biomarkers predict the progression of the disease and its effect on memory.
They found that early accumulation of tau proteins in the brain as measured by PET scanner was more effective at predicting memory impairment than biomarkers in the cerebrospinal fluid or amyloid plaque in the brain.
Over 50 million people around the world suffer from dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and is characterized by an accumulation of the proteins beta-amyloid (Ab) and tau in the brain, followed by a continuous progression in memory decline.
The pathological progression can take different forms and it is difficult to predict how quickly the symptoms will develop in any particular individual.
Moreover, the presence of Ab in a person’s brain—known as amyloid plaque—does not necessarily mean that he or she will develop Alzheimer’s dementia.
In the study, the team found that that the presence of tau in the brain measured by a PET scanner is linked to a rapid decline, especially of the episodic memory, which is often affected at an early stage of the disease.
The finding suggests that tau PET should be recommended for the clinical prognostic assessment of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients.
The results are based on brain imaging (PET and MRI) and CSF analyses in a group of 282 participants comprising people with mild cognitive impairment, people with Alzheimer’s dementia and healthy controls.
213 of the participants were also monitored for three years with tests of episodic memory (i.e. short-term memory related to daily events).
These findings show that the concentration of tau in the brain in Alzheimer’s disease plays an important part in its pathological progression and may become a key target for future drug treatments.
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The study is published in Molecular Psychiatry. One author of the study is Marco Bucci.
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