Brain Cell Malfunctions Could Be Stopped

Scientists have discovered a way to possibly halt the progression of dementia that’s caused by the malfunctioning of the protein tau.

In many forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s, tau goes awry. Instead of performing its normal cellular functions, it begins accumulating and interfering with cell-to-cell communications.

That accumulation forms tau oligomers, the toxic form of tau. If scientists are able to find a way to eliminate the tau oligomers without removing the functional tau, that may halt the spread of tau-related dementia. But that has proven difficult.

Now, researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have found how to do that, though an antibody called TOMA.

Their findings, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, were based on a rodent model of tau-related dementia. Treatment with TOMA improved the rodents’ performance on memory tests.

"This is significant because this research describes a very promising vaccination strategy for Alzheimer's disease, which could prevent memory loss from occurring later in life. No safety concerns were detected in mice receiving this treatment, but more research is needed to confirm the efficacy and safety of immunization in other animals and in humans," said UTMB neurology professor Rakez Kayed, member of the Sealy Center for Vaccine Development and senior author of this study.


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