Dementia study reveals how toxic proteins spread through brain

Led by the University of Edinburgh, the study focused on synapses, connections which allow the flow of chemical and electrical messages between brain cells and are vital to healthy brain function. Alzheimer’s disease attacks synapses and their loss strongly predicts reduced memory and thinking abilities.

In the study, scientists examined more than one million synapses from 42 people using powerful microscopy techniques to visualize proteins within individual synapses.

The team discovered that small clumps of the protein tau – known as tau oligomers – are found within the synapses of people who died of Alzheimer’s disease.

Tangles of tau oligomers were seen inside both ends of the synapse – from the brain cell sending signals and the brain cell receiving signals.

In a mouse model of the disease, the oligomers jumped from one side of the synapse to the other, spreading the toxic tau through the brain.

Lowering oligomeric tau at synapses may be a promising strategy to stop disease progression in future, experts say.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, with currently around 900,000 people with the condition in the UK. This figure is projected to rise to nearly 1.6 million in 2040. It can cause severe memory loss and there is currently no cure.

The study is published in the journal Neuron: The research team included scientists from the University of Edinburgh, the UK Dementia Research Institute, the Institut d’Investigacions Biomèdiques Hospital de Sant Pau and the Institute for Advanced Chemistry of Catalonia (Barcelona).

Lead researcher, Professor Tara-Spires Jones of the UK Dementia Research Institute at the University of Edinburgh, said: “We have known for over 30 years that tangles spread through the brain during Alzheimer’s disease, but how they spread has remained a mystery. Wherever tangles appear in the brain, neuron death follows, contributing to the decline in cognitive ability. Stopping the spread of toxic tau is a promising strategy to stop the disease in its tracks.”


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3 responses to “Dementia study reveals how toxic proteins spread through brain

  1. Thanks for your posts, Tony! The more we learn about the brain will certainly help in many ways!
    Nutrition is one factor I can help control and vitamins. Hopefully this helps brain health.
    Thanks again for sharing your information with us!
    –Janine Perky


  2. I have recently experienced increasing memory issues. I am now trying to diversify my food. Do you have any recommendations for memory friendly diet? Are there any foods that you lnow of that are especially good for brain health and memory?
    Thank you, Tony!
    –Janine Perky

    Liked by 1 person

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