Scientists find what initiate early stages of Alzheimer’s disease

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Alzheimer’s disease (AD), a devastating neurological condition, has long been associated with the abnormal accumulation of tau protein in the brain.

However, the initial phases of tau misfolding and aggregation, crucial to understanding the disease’s onset, have remained a mystery.

A pioneering study by a team from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Boston Children’s Hospital offers new insights into these early stages, focusing on a previously unidentified soluble form of tau protein.

Published in the journal Brain, the study used advanced proteomics methods, including mass spectroscopy, to analyze various forms of tau protein in brain tissue samples.

Mass spectroscopy, a technique that measures the mass-to-charge ratio of molecules, was instrumental in comparing tau in AD patients with that in healthy controls.

The researchers made a significant discovery: a soluble form of tau in the brains of AD patients. Unlike the classical tau aggregates known in Alzheimer’s, this soluble form shares many toxic properties with them.

Mukesh Kumar, Ph.D., the first author of the study, characterized this tau variant. It appears to be a forme fruste of the insoluble tau found in Alzheimer’s aggregates, meaning it’s a less developed or incomplete manifestation of the disease.

The concept of forme fruste, a French term for “a crude or unfinished form,” is used in medicine to describe an atypical or milder expression of a condition.

The identification of this early form of tau suggests that it could be an initial step leading to the neurodegeneration seen in Alzheimer’s. This discovery opens new avenues for targeting this specific tau variant in the fight against the disease.

Hyman and Steen express optimism that further research into the structure and behavior of this aqueous, pathological tau form could reveal its mechanisms of action. Such understanding is vital for designing therapeutic agents capable of blocking its harmful effects.

This study marks a critical step forward in Alzheimer’s research. By shedding light on the elusive early stages of tau protein misfolding and aggregation, it offers hope for developing more effective treatments that can intervene before significant neurodegeneration occurs.

As researchers continue to explore the intricacies of tau proteins in Alzheimer’s, this work provides a foundational piece to the complex puzzle of understanding and ultimately combating this debilitating disease.

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The research findings can be found in Brain.

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