More Treatment Plans Needed for Alzheimer’s Disease

By Lou Portero - Last Updated: March 29, 2022

Researchers believe age is the most important factor in developing Alzheimer’s disease. The frequency of this condition is proportional to an increase in age. It is expected that at least one in three persons over the age of 80 years are living with the disease. In fact, the World Health Organization placed the figure of people living with Alzheimer’s and some related forms of dementia at more than 55 million people.

A specialized protein, tau, has been identified to be responsible for transporting nutrients from one brain cell to another. Scientists believed the accumulation of the beta-amyloid protein or injury to the brain can result in malformed tau.

Professor Anne Robinson, a co-author of the study and head of Carnegie Mellon’s Department of Chemical engineering, has been able to deduce from several Alzheimer’s models, how malformed tau transmits from one brain cell to the other. As the malformed tau moves from cell to cell, it causes a web-like formation of neurofibrillary tangles. These web-like formations are significant in the neuronal death observed in Alzheimer’s disease.

Despite the improvements in techniques to ascertain the presence of the disease, no treatment has been efficient to slow its progress. Lisa Genova, who has a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard University, said in a TED Talk that if we live long enough, Alzheimer’s disease is inevitable for our brains.

After decades of research, no disease-modifying treatment has been found. However, findings suggest a more extensive procedure may be the answer. Professor Robinson explained that Evans Wells and Danny Oseid, co-authors of the study, examined the behavior of normal tau as control experiments while comparing them to their malformed counterparts. Their work led to the discovery that even normal tau was absorbed readily by brain cells.

He further states that there are various pathways by which tau can enter cells and though pathogenic tau may be taken up easier than normal tau, brain cells and neurons assimilate both forms within minutes.

Now, it is quite understandable that enabling neurons to absorb healthy tau, rather than malformed ones, requires a much more enhanced approach. A mixture of drugs may be needed to tackle different aspects of the disease, as is done in the case of HIV. Prof. Robinson noted that these drugs work together toward achieving the greater goal which is treating the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in a selected patient.

Although these new findings give scientists a crystal-clear idea of how Alzheimer’s forms and spreads within the brain, it is still crucial that further research is done. Understanding the pros and cons will be very useful in preventing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.


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March 28, 2023