A group of researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found a way to reduce the levels of tau protein in the brain. Tau protein normally regulates the level of amyloid protein in the brain. Abnormal tau proteins and abundance of beta-amyloid have been linked to neuron damages in seniors with Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s disease can make everyday activities difficult for seniors. As your loved one’s cognitive functioning is affected, he or she may need assistance with daily activities. Summit home care experts are available to provide high-quality care to seniors on an as-needed basis. From assistance with mobility and exercise to providing transportation to the doctor’s office and social events, there are a variety of ways professional caregivers can help your aging loved one continue to live independently.
The new research on tau protein looks promising and may be able to prevent brain damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease. Here’s what you need to know.
How Abnormal Tau Damages the Brain
Abnormal tau proteins are hexagonal in shape or have spindle fibers. They are situated on the axons of neurons. The mutated configurations become entangled with similar-looking tau proteins from other axons, which then entangle neurons and consequently disrupt normal communication between the cells. The process eventually leads to neuron damage and death.
For the first time, scientists believe they found a compound that reverses damage caused by abnormal tau proteins. The research involved a molecule called antisense oligonucleotide, which carries the possibility of being a potential Alzheimer’s treatment. Antisense interferes with the genetic material needed to create the proteins. The compound destroys messenger RNA before the protein forms.
The study involved genetically modified mice that produced the mutated, clumping form of tau proteins. The mice were six months old when tau tangles began emerging in their brains. Three months later, the mice exhibited neuron damage. To determine the effects of antisense in the brain, scientists injected the substance into the spinal fluid of the nine-month-old animals. The mice received the formula once a day for an entire month.
When the mice reached one year of age, their brains were evaluated for tau proteins, tau RNA, and tau tangles. All levels were significantly lower compared to the untreated mice. The evidence also seemed to indicate the treatment reversed the levels of accumulated tau.
Without intervention, the hippocampus in the brains of affected mice shrank due to cell death. The process stopped in the treated animals. The treated mice were also observed 36 days longer than the untreated animals and began demonstrating normal cognitive and motor function along with social behavior. These traits are typically impaired in seniors with Alzheimer’s.
Researchers also performed the same study on macaque monkeys and obtained similar results. However, along with evaluating the brains of the animals, researchers also measured levels in the spinal fluid throughout the process. They found a direct correlation between the tau levels in both areas. This information was important, as the technique was the only means of measuring the compound’s effects in humans.
The Importance of Tau Protein Research
Along with Alzheimer’s, other neurodegenerative diseases involving tangled tau proteins include corticobasal ganglionic degeneration and progressive supranuclear palsy. Tau protein levels are also altered in people with traumatic brain injuries. The studies may eventually create a treatment for all tau protein-related disorders. The possible benefits of oligonucleotide formulas are currently being studied in humans with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Huntington’s disease.
Until the time a cure for Alzheimer’s disease is developed, professional caregivers can help seniors with Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related disorders. For trusted and reliable dementia care, Summit families can turn to Home Care Assistance. We are experts in caring for seniors with memory-related conditions, our caregivers are available 24/7, and all of our dementia care programs are backed with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
Seniors with Alzheimer’s have much to gain when their families opt for professional Alzheimer’s care. Summit, NJ, families can rely on compassionate and dedicated caregivers to help their elderly loved ones manage the various challenges of Alzheimer’s disease so they can enjoy a higher quality of life. Call one of our friendly Care Managers at 908.450.9400 to create a custom care plan for your aging loved one.