Alzheimer’s: Study reveals how the disease develops in the brain

New research has tracked the replication and proliferation of the protein tau for the first time.

Aggregates of tau and the protein beta-amyloid are involved in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

The international study, published late last month in the journal Science Advances, was led by researchers at the University of Cambridge.

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In it, the authors wrote that by pooling chemical kinetics with measurements of the tau aggregates or “seeds” across brain regions, they were able to quantify the rate of their replication in human brains.

After developing a mathematical model to simulate the development of the disease and using five different methods for tau quantification – from postmortem seed amplification assays to tau PET (positron emission tomography) scans of the brains of living individuals – the researchers said they had achieved comparable rates in several different data sets.

“Our results suggest that from Braak stage III onwards, local replication, rather than proliferation between brain regions, is the main process controlling the overall rate of accumulation of tau in neocortical areas. The number of seeds doubles only every ~ 5 years. Thus, limitation of local replication is probably the most promising strategy to control tau accumulation during [Alzheimer’s disease]”, they wrote.

Braak stage III refers to the third of six stages of Braak staging methods used to classify the degree of pathology of Alzheimer’s disease.

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Earlier, as Medical News Today notes, some believed that Alzheimer’s disease develops when tau seeds spread to unaffected areas of the brain.

These findings, the publication adds, may prove important in the development of new therapies.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.

By 2020, as many as 5.8 million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That number is expected to triple by 2060.

Researchers do not yet know exactly what causes Alzheimer’s disease, but age is the best known risk factor.

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Changes in the brain can begin several years before the symptoms, and as rope entanglements with beta-amyloid accumulate in the brain, they kill nerve cells.

The loss of nerve cells causes shrinkage of the brain, which disrupts cognition and memory.

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