We are one step closer to understanding Alzheimer’s disease | The Optimist Daily
Today’s Solutions: June 21, 2024

Scientists have an incomplete picture of the contributing factors of Alzheimer’s disease, meaning there is still no preventative treatment or cure for sufferers. It is widely accepted that build-up of the protein ‘tau’ around the brain forms ‘plaques,’ which stop signals from being able to be transferred around the brain and cause it to shrink. Therefore, to diagnose the disease, doctors use the markers of plaques in combination with tangles of neurons in the brain.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t always add up. “Roughly 20 percent of people have the plaques, but no signs of dementia,” stated UC Riverside chemistry professor Ryan Julian. “This makes it seem as though the plaques themselves are not the cause.” Because of this, Julian’s research team published a paper in the Journal of Proteome Research, with the aim to look deeper into the mechanism and structure of how tau operates.

Through structural analysis experiments, the group found the shape of the tau molecule was a highly important influencer in a dementia diagnosis. Tau was converted to its damaging shaped form the longer it hung around in the brain. In a healthy mind, the body breaks down proteins regularly in a process called autophagy. As we get older, the process becomes less efficient. In turn, this allows a buildup of damaging shaped tau molecules to build up.

This realization is incredibly important for understanding how Alzheimer’s works. With this knowledge, more effective treatment approaches can be administered. Drugs that promote autophagy are already used for conditions such as cardiovascular disease. The team suggests testing these drugs’ influence on tau levels in the brain. What is great about this treatment is that it is already approved and well-researched, fast tracking the potential brain-saving idea in a clinical setting.

Fasting can also promote autophagy, as the body is not receiving any new material, it is forced to recycle the already existing amount in there. The team is hoping these suggestions can be used as a preventive treatment for the disease. “If a slowdown in autophagy is the underlying cause, things that increase it should have the beneficial, opposite effect,” said Julian.

Source study: Journal of Proteome Research – Does Data-Independent Acquisition Data Contain Hidden Gems? A Case Study Related to Alzheimer’s Disease

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