Scientists find one important cause of Alzheimer’s disease

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Scientists from Flinders University found how a protein called tau, a critical factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, turns from normal to a disease state—and showed how this discovery could help develop a new treatment.

The research is published in Science Advances and was conducted by Dr. Arne Ittner et al.

Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, currently has no cure or effective therapy, in part due to gaps in our understanding of how the progressive neurodegenerative disorder arises in the brain.

In the course of Alzheimer’s disease development, tau accumulates in deposits inside brain cells.

During this process, tau gets heavily modified, with various deposits made up of tau carrying multiple small changes at many different positions within the tau molecule.

In the study, the team focussed on the relationship between tau and protein kinases, which are enzymes that introduce changes in tau.

The researchers conducted a large experiment that included up to 20 different changes in tau and 12 enzymes, focusing on the most abundant type of change seen in tau in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

While the study did discover that one change in tau does make it easier for another change to be introduced, it was also able to identify “master sites” in tau, being specific spots that govern subsequent modifications at most of the other sites.

By modifying these master sites, the researchers were able to drive modification at multiple other spots within tau, leading to a similar state seen in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

The next step for the team was to see whether master sites could be targeted to reduce the toxic properties of tau in Alzheimer’s, in a bid to improve memory function.

The current study employed mice that have both amyloid and tau and developed Alzheimer’s-like symptoms, including memory deficits.

The researchers found that mice did not develop memory deficits when they had a version of tau that lacked one of the identified master sites, compared with mice that had the usual version of tau.

The team will now investigate how its findings can be translated into treatment.

If you care about Alzheimer’s disease, please read studies about the cause of memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease, and brain damage could be stronger in COVID-19 than in Alzheimer’s disease.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about diet that may prevent or even reverse Alzheimer’s disease, and this low-carb diet could help reverse brain aging.

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