A new study has discovered that the protein tau (the “tangles”) is the main cause of Alzheimer’s disease, not plaque as was previously believed. Tau determines how much amyloid protein stays in the cell and how much is secreted outside the cell wall to form plaque. The plaque is not toxic, but a buildup of amyloid is. When amyloid builds up in the cell, this causes cell death. This is a major finding which can change how Alzheimer’s disease, the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., is treated. An anti-cancer drug called nilotinib will begin clinical trials to see how it cleans out a cell, clearing debris and reducing outer plaque buildup. This prevents progression of the disease and reduces inflammation in the brain. The dose in the trial will be much lower than that prescribed for leukemia treatment. There are currently no screenings for Alzheimer’s, but there is a way to scan for tau which should be used instead of checking plaques and can detect signs of Alzheimer’s much sooner, since tau is modified before the amyloid plaques are detected. With earlier detection and a drug that cleans out bad tau in the brain, patients can prevent the progression of Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Kwan, Nicole. “Tau protein, not plaque, may cause Alzheimer’s, study says.” Health. Fox News, 31 Oct 2014. Web. 6 Nov 2014.