Scientists find new discovery about Alzheimer’s disease

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What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a common form of dementia. It is a condition that affects the brain over time, causing problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. Currently, there is no known cure for this disease.

In the United Kingdom alone, around 900,000 people live with Alzheimer’s. By the year 2040, this number is estimated to increase to nearly 1.6 million.

It is a significant health concern globally, affecting millions of individuals and their families.

The Key Players in Alzheimer’s: Tau Proteins and Synapses

Let’s first understand what tau proteins and synapses are.

Tau proteins are present in our brain cells and usually help with their structure and function.

However, in Alzheimer’s disease, these proteins behave unusually—they clump together to form ‘tangles’. These tangles are not good news for our brain cells.

On the other hand, synapses are small structures in our brains that allow messages to pass between brain cells.

Think of them like post offices—they help send vital information from one part of the brain to another. In a healthy brain, they play a crucial role in memory and learning.

How Does Alzheimer’s Disease Progress?

In Alzheimer’s disease, tau proteins don’t behave as they should. They start to form large clumps or ‘tangles’ inside the brain cells.

These tangles are one of the key features of Alzheimer’s disease. As more and more tangles form and spread throughout the brain, brain function declines.

Alzheimer’s disease also affects the synapses, the brain’s ‘post offices’. The disease damages these synapses, leading to a decrease in memory and thinking abilities.

The loss of synapses is a strong indicator of the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Groundbreaking Study

A recent study by the University of Edinburgh has shed new light on this process. This study, published in the scientific journal Neuron, used advanced microscopy techniques to examine more than a million synapses in detail.

The research involved brain tissue from 42 people who had died from Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers found that tau proteins were not only forming tangles in the brain cells but also in the synapses.

The small clumps of tau proteins, known as tau oligomers, were present in the synapses of the individuals who had Alzheimer’s disease.

More surprisingly, these tau oligomers were found at both ends of the synapse: where the brain cell sends signals and where it receives signals.

In an experiment using mice, the researchers discovered that these tau oligomers could jump from one side of the synapse to the other. This ‘jumping’ is how the harmful tau proteins spread throughout the brain.

Future Implications

This discovery gives us a deeper understanding of how Alzheimer’s disease progresses. It reveals a new potential way to tackle this condition—by focusing on tau oligomers in the synapses.

If future research can find a way to decrease the amount of tau oligomers in the synapses, it could be a promising strategy to halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

In conclusion, this study brings hope in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.

While there is still much to learn and many challenges ahead, this research offers a fresh perspective on understanding and potentially treating this devastating condition.

If you care about brain health, please read studies about vitamin D deficiency linked to Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, and higher magnesium intake could help benefit brain health.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce dementia risk, and coconut oil could help improve cognitive function in Alzheimer’s.

The study was published in Neuron.

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