Breaking News
February 20, 2019 - Health Tip: Get Your Child to School on Time
February 20, 2019 - Shortcut strategy for screening compounds with clinical potentials for drug development
February 20, 2019 - Common acid reflux drugs tied to elevated risk for kidney disease
February 20, 2019 - Microbiome could be culprit when good drugs do harm
February 20, 2019 - Prenatal exposure to forest fires causes stunted growth in children
February 20, 2019 - Gene therapy restores hearing in mice with congenital genetic deafness
February 20, 2019 - First molecular test predicts treatment response for kidney cancer
February 20, 2019 - New method for improved visualization of single-cell RNA- sequencing data
February 20, 2019 - Researchers capture altered brain activity patterns of Parkinson’s in mice
February 20, 2019 - A possible blood test for detecting Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms show
February 20, 2019 - Primary care physicians associated with longevity, new research finds
February 19, 2019 - New study identifies many key lessons to establish sanctioned safe consumption sites
February 19, 2019 - Single CRISPR treatment can safely and stably correct genetic disease
February 19, 2019 - Multinational initiative to study familial primary distal renal tubular acidosis
February 19, 2019 - Breakthrough study highlights the promise of cell therapies for muscular dystrophy
February 19, 2019 - Subsymptom Threshold Exercise Speeds Concussion Recovery
February 19, 2019 - Midline venous catheters – infants: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia
February 19, 2019 - Searching for side effects
February 19, 2019 - Humanity is all right, probably, although human extinction remains quite possible, researcher says
February 19, 2019 - Having Anesthesia Once as a Baby Does Not Cause Learning Disabilities, New Research Shows
February 19, 2019 - Anti-cancer immunotherapy could be used to fight HIV
February 19, 2019 - Customized Micropatterning for Improved Physiological Relevance
February 19, 2019 - Unique gene therapy approach paves new way to tackle rare, inherited diseases
February 19, 2019 - Activating gene that helps excite neurons reverses depression in male mice
February 19, 2019 - Science Puzzling Out Differences in Gut Bacteria Around the World
February 19, 2019 - Cells that destroy the intestine
February 19, 2019 - On recovery, vulnerability and ritual: An exhibit in white
February 19, 2019 - Scientific Duo Gets Back To Basics To Make Childbirth Safer
February 19, 2019 - COPD patients need more support when understanding new chest symptoms
February 19, 2019 - Using light-based method for production of pharmaceutical molecules
February 19, 2019 - Scientists find link between inflammation and cancer
February 19, 2019 - The High Cost Of Sex: Insurers Often Don’t Pay For Drugs To Treat Problems
February 19, 2019 - Hearing impairment associated with accelerated cognitive decline with age
February 19, 2019 - Researchers identify multiple genetic variants associated with body fat distribution
February 19, 2019 - Influenza and common cold are completely different diseases, study shows
February 19, 2019 - Scientists untangle how microbes manufacture key antibiotic compound
February 19, 2019 - Greater primary care physician supply associated with longer life spans
February 19, 2019 - HIV-1 protein suppresses immune response more broadly than thought
February 19, 2019 - Brain imaging indicates potential success of drug therapy in depressive patients
February 19, 2019 - For 2020 Dem Hopefuls, ‘Medicare-For-All’ Is A Defining Issue, However They Define It
February 19, 2019 - Specialized lung cells appear in the developing fetus much earlier than previously thought
February 19, 2019 - KU professor discusses promise of brain-computer interface to aid, restore communication
February 19, 2019 - Highly effective solution for detecting onset of aggregation in nanoparticles
February 19, 2019 - Early marker of cardiac damage triggered by cancer treatment identified
February 19, 2019 - Antidepressant drug could save people from deadly sepsis, research suggests
February 19, 2019 - CRISPR technology creates pluripotent stem cells that are ‘invisible’ to the immune system
February 19, 2019 - New study establishes how stress favors breast cancer growth and spread
February 19, 2019 - Midlife Systemic Inflammation Linked to Later Cognitive Decline
February 19, 2019 - Therapy derived from parasitic worms downregulates proinflammatory pathways
February 19, 2019 - Antimicrobial reusable coffee cups are less likely to become contaminated with bacteria, study shows
February 19, 2019 - Harnessing the evolutionary games played by cancer cells to advance therapies
February 19, 2019 - AHA News: Heart Transplant Survivor Gets Wedding Proposal at Finish Line
February 19, 2019 - HIV hidden in patients’ cells can now be accurately measured
February 19, 2019 - Research finds reasons for sudden cardiac death in patients with stable ischemic disease
February 19, 2019 - New protocol could help physicians to rule out bacterial infections in infants
February 19, 2019 - Women experiencing miscarriage should be offered treatment choices
February 19, 2019 - New protocol can help identify febrile infants at low risk for serious bacterial infections
February 19, 2019 - Innovative way to block HIV runs into a roadblock
February 19, 2019 - Springer Nature with BCRF conduct pilot project to make their research datasets more accessible
February 19, 2019 - Study finds neuromelanin-sensitive MRI as potential biomarker for psychosis
February 19, 2019 - Improvements in cardiovascular care for elderly save billions in health care costs
February 19, 2019 - Chilean food regulations are changing food perceptions and purchasing habits, study suggests
February 19, 2019 - Index endoscopy results are crucial for assessment of Barrett’s patients
February 18, 2019 - Breast cancer screening age should be lowered to 35
February 18, 2019 - Brain synchronization depends on the language of communication
February 18, 2019 - Drug Company Payments Over Time May Influence Rx Practices
February 18, 2019 - Despite socioeconomic gains, black-white ‘health gap’ remains
February 18, 2019 - Researchers report progress in the treatment of aggressive brain tumors
February 18, 2019 - Scientists discover trigger that turns strep infections into devastating disease
February 18, 2019 - Scanning children’s teeth may predict future mental health issues
February 18, 2019 - Health Highlights: Feb. 14, 2019
February 18, 2019 - New knowledge could help predict and prevent depression
February 18, 2019 - More primary care physicians leads to longer life spans | News Center
February 18, 2019 - Study examines link between supply of primary care physicians and life expectancy
February 18, 2019 - New study assesses screen time in young children
February 18, 2019 - Patented IU discovery to treat ARDS has been optioned to Theratome Bio
February 18, 2019 - Software found to be four times better at monitoring ovarian cancer
February 18, 2019 - Male Y chromosomes not ‘genetic wastelands’
February 18, 2019 - Hormone therapy during gender transition may increase risk for cardiovascular events
February 18, 2019 - NICE renews accreditation for Advanced
Scientists ID genesis of disease, focus efforts on shape-shifting tau

Scientists ID genesis of disease, focus efforts on shape-shifting tau

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print
Abnormal accumulations of a protein called tau can collect inside neurons, forming tangled threads and eventually harming the synaptic connection between neurons. Credit: National Institute on Aging. UT Southwestern

Scientists have discovered a “Big Bang” of Alzheimer’s disease – the precise point at which a healthy protein becomes toxic but has not yet formed deadly tangles in the brain.

A study from UT Southwestern’s O’Donnell Brain Institute provides novel insight into the shape-shifting nature of a tau molecule just before it begins sticking to itself to form larger aggregates. The revelation offers a new strategy to detect the devastating disease before it takes hold and has spawned an effort to develop treatments that stabilize tau proteins before they shift shape.

“This is perhaps the biggest finding we have made to date, though it will likely be some time before any benefits materialize in the clinic. This changes much of how we think about the problem,” said Dr. Marc Diamond, Director for UT Southwestern’s Center for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases and a leading dementia expert credited with determining that tau acts like a prion – an infectious protein that can self-replicate.

The study published in eLife contradicts the previous belief that an isolated tau protein has no distinct shape and is only harmful after it begins to assemble with other tau proteins to form the distinct tangles seen in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

Scientists made the discovery after extracting tau proteins from human brains and isolating them as single molecules. They found that the harmful form of tau exposes a part of itself that is normally folded inside. This exposed portion causes it to stick to other tau proteins, enabling the formation of tangles that kill neurons.

“We think of this as the Big Bang of tau pathology,” said Dr. Diamond, referring to the prevailing scientific theory about the formation of the universe. “This is a way of peering to the very beginning of the disease process. It moves us backward to a very discreet point where we see the appearance of the first molecular change that leads to neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s. This work relied on a close collaboration with my colleague, Dr. Lukasz Joachimiak.”

Credit: UT Southwestern

Despite billions of dollars spent on clinical trials through the decades, Alzheimer’s disease remains one of the most devastating and baffling diseases in the world, affecting more than 5 million Americans alone.

Dr. Diamond is hopeful the scientific field has turned a corner, noting that identifying the genesis of the disease provides scientists a vital target in diagnosing the condition at its earliest stage, before the symptoms of memory loss and cognitive decline become apparent.

His team’s next steps are to develop a simple clinical test that examines a patient’s blood or spinal fluid to detect the first biological signs of the abnormal tau protein. But just as important, Dr. Diamond said, efforts are underway to develop a treatment that would make the diagnosis actionable.

He cites a compelling reason for cautious optimism: Tafamidis, a recently approved drug, stabilizes a different shape-shifting protein called transthyretin that causes deadly protein accumulation in the heart, similar to how tau overwhelms the brain.

“The hunt is on to build on this finding and make a treatment that blocks the neurodegeneration process where it begins,” Dr. Diamond said. “If it works, the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease could be substantially reduced. That would be amazing.”

Dr. Diamond’s lab, at the forefront of many notable findings relating to tau, previously determined that tau acts like a prion – an infectious protein that can spread like a virus through the brain. The lab has determined that tau protein in the human brain can form many distinct strains, or self-replicating structures, and developed methods to reproduce them in the laboratory. He said his newest research indicates that a single pathological form of tau protein may have multiple possible shapes, each associated with a different form of dementia.


Explore further:
Structure of toxic tau aggregates determines type of dementia, rate of progression

More information:
Hilda Mirbaha et al. Inert and seed-competent tau monomers suggest structural origins of aggregation, eLife (2018). DOI: 10.7554/eLife.36584

Journal reference:
eLife

Provided by:
UT Southwestern Medical Center

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles