For years, neuroscientists have puzzled over how two abnormal proteins, called amyloid and tau, accumulate in the brain and damage it in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Which one is the driving force behind dementia? The answer: both of them, according to a new study.
In the journal Molecular Psychiatry, researchers report for the first time evidence that the interaction between amyloid and tau proteins drives brain damage in cognitively intact individuals.
”We specifically found that both proteins mutually enhance their individual toxic effects and cause a brain dysfunction considered to be a signature of AD. This finding challenges previous polarized theories that a single protein abnormality was the major driving force of disease progression,” explained the study’s leader, Dr. Pedro Rosa-Neto, a clinician scientist at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and assistant professor of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry at McGill University.
This research also points toward new potential therapeutic strategies to mitigate the progression of AD.
”Until now, therapeutic clinical trials have targeted a single pathological process. Our result paves the way for new therapeutic strategies for prevention or stabilization of AD. For example, combination therapies should be used simultaneously against both amyloid and tau protein accumulation”, says Dr. Tharick A. Pascoal, the study’s first author.
The researchers analyzed the performances of 120 cognitively intact individuals over two years (equal gender distribution; average age 75). By measuring amyloid levels using PET scans and tau proteins through cerebrospinal fluid analysis, the researchers were able to identify the patients at risk for brain damage associated with AD.
Source: Reprinted from materials provided by the McGill University.