For what seems like forever, medical scientists have been trying to figure out the relative disease-causing importance of two types of protein often found in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) victims: tau and amyloid-beta (Aβ). While the larger question is still unresolved, recent research may have made a significant discovery about the tau protein.
The research indicates mechanisms involved in the very early stages of AD, so it may lead to diagnostic tests that can signal the beginnings of the disease long before symptoms become apparent. This might allow for timely applications of preventive therapies, and might even contribute to the discovery of such therapies.
Tau is associated with Alzheimer’s because it is found in the form of neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) in the neurons of the autopsied brains of Alzheimer’s victims. (Such tangles are also found in neurons affected by other neurodegenerative diseases. Collectively these diseases are called tauopathies.)