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Medicine Science

Alzheimer's Transmission Pathway Discovered 154

smitty777 writes "Two separate studies by the Taub Institute and Harvard have discovered the pathway used by Alzheimer's Disease to spread through the brain. The studies indicate it's not a virus, but a distorted protein called Tau which moves from cell to cell. Further, the discovery 'may now offer scientists a way to move forward and develop a way to block tau's spread in Alzheimer's patients, said Karen Duff, a researcher at Columbia's Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer's disease and co-author of one study published Wednesday in the journal PLoS One. "It's enlightening for us because it now provides a whole other area for potential therapeutic impact," said Duff. "It's possible that you can identify the disease and intervene (with potential tau-blocking drugs) before the dementia actually sets in."'"
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Alzheimer's Transmission Pathway Discovered

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  • by djdanlib ( 732853 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:13PM (#38915883) Homepage

    I'm always suspicious of these 'breakthroughs' when they are introduced via mass media. Somebody thought up a possible cause always gets interpreted to mean that there must be a cure on the way and that's a sexy story to sell the papers, so... Where are the links to peer-reviewed scientific journals? This is Slashdot, a link to the NY Times isn't much more than a start.

  • Nice work (Score:5, Interesting)

    by medv4380 ( 1604309 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:23PM (#38916071)
    Nice that they've isolated it down to a single protein causing the problem. From what I gathered from the article the protein is supposed to provide the insulation between neural networks as you get older. Shouldn't be long then before they have it isolated down to the gene sequence that causes the protein to go rogue in the first place. Assuming that it's genetic and not some other kind of Prion.
  • Re:Does this mean? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:26PM (#38916103)
    I've never heard of anything to suggest that Alzheimers can be "caught." A seminar I saw a few years ago on tau suggested that in order to form these aggregates of tau, you need to have a mutated form of it: normal tau does not start clumping up and killing brain cells (not entirely sure I'm remembering that correctly). It's only transmissible between cells which have the same mutant form of the protein. I don't know, maybe it's possible that material from alzheimers patients could make the disease appear sooner in people with the mutant form who would probably develop symptoms later.

    The prion protein that is at the heart of Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease, on the other hand, that appears to be the normal protein misfolding. The diseased proteins seem to convince normal proteins to misfold.

    So, as I understand it, the hypothesis is that if you were to inject material from an alzheimer's patient's brain into your brain, for example, the alzheimer's Tau would not cause your tau to start clumping up and would not cause the disease. If you injected brain material from someone suffering from spongiform encephalitis though, the proteins in your brain WOULD be coaxed to start clumping up, causing the disease.

    Let's not test those hypotheses though...
  • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thomst ( 1640045 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @01:09PM (#38916779) Homepage

    quark101 opined:

    Alzheimer's is a terrible disease, not just for the person who has it, but especially so for those who are close to the afflicted. The slow, degenerative, wasting of the mind is horrifying to watch, as the person that was once bright and lively gets turned into a shell of their former self. Not able to grasp what's going on around them, or who they're talking to, the person can easily become terrified, lost, and confused, made all the more painful by the fact that they don't know who their children are or why they're here.

    I know that identifying the underlying cause and developing a treatment are often worlds apart, but I'm glad nonetheless to see this advancement, if merely for the fact that one day others won't have to experience the pain I did as I watched people I love succumb to Alzheimer's.

    Amen to that.

    Last August, my mother was diagnosed with "mild to moderate" Alzheimer's. I had been certain for some time prior to then that she had the disease. She would sometimes repeat as if it had just occurred to her a story she'd told me just minutes earlier, she'd get stuck trying to recall the names of people she'd known for years (such as her 22-year-old granddaughter), and was only strongly confident about the details of events long past. In November, she was examined by two doctors at the Copper Ridge Institute (which is affiliated with Johns Hopkins), which specializes in Alzheimer's research and treatment. She knew the President of the U.S. was black, but couldn't recall his name, thought my youngest sister was 40 (she turned 53 in December), and couldn't remember which day of the week it was (it was Friday).

    I call her at least once a week, and she seems to deteriorate more every time I speak with her - and yet, she's still fundamentally the same warm, sweet, vibrant woman she's been as long as I've known her. Just ... a little confused. What I fear is that, over time, she will lose all the memories that make her that person. I've known several people with advanced Alzheimer's, and watched them become progressively emptier shells of themselves, until they're little more than slack-jawed zombies, incapable of caring for themselves, or communicating with others - and I don't want to see that happen to my Mom.

    But I know it will, because none of these new discoveries will make it out of the lab in time to save her from the ravages of this loathsome disease. And that breaks my heart.

  • by MickLinux ( 579158 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @01:12PM (#38916849) Journal

    In other words, Alzhimer's is a prion disease, much like Kuru. Also, I suspect, much like Multiple Sclerosis.

    The difference is that Kuru is a disease gotten by eating human flesh, and even tigers that eat it will be able to get it from humans.

    Scrappie comes from sheep. Mad cow comes from cows. Even deer have their own prion disease. If I had to guess what MS comes from, I'd guess pig meat.

    So what's Alzhimer's come from? I suspect it comes from sausage. More specifically, from rats. Anyhow, that's where I'd start looking.

"Mach was the greatest intellectual fraud in the last ten years." "What about X?" "I said `intellectual'." ;login, 9/1990