Research identifies what causes Alzheimer’s to develop in the brain

Before you dive in, it is helpful to know that there are two proteins involved in the cognitive decline of Alzheimer’s disease: amyloid beta and tau. The structure of these proteins is called aggregates and is responsible for memory loss, personality changes and ultimately the killing of brain cells.

Until now, researchers believed that the disease evolved by spreading from one region of the brain to another “in a way similar to many cancers,” lead author of the study Georg Meisl, Ph.D. said in a press release.

Using brain samples from deceased Alzheimer’s patients and PET scans from living patients with varying progression of the disease, the researchers were able to track how tau aggregates actually develop. What they discovered is that instead of spreading over time, tau aggregates already exist in several areas of the brain at the beginning. “So attempts to stop the spread between regions will not do much to curb the disease,” Meisl explains.


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