AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 27, Number 3, 2018

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Data Detectives Shift Suspicions in Alzheimer's from Usual Suspect to Inside Villain

The mass pursuit of a conspicuous suspect in Alzheimer’s disease may have encumbered research success for decades. Now, a new data analysis that has untangled evidence amassed in years of Alzheimer’s studies encourages researchers to refocus their investigations.

Heaps of plaque formed from amyloid-beta that accumulate in afflicted brains are what stick out under the microscope in tissue samples from Alzheimer’s sufferers, and that eye-catching junk has long seemed an obvious culprit in the disease. But data analysis of the cumulative evidence doesn’t back up so much attention to that usual suspect, according to a new study from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Though the bad amyloid-beta protein does appear to be an accomplice in the disease, the study has pointed to a more likely red-handed offender, another protein-gone-bad called phosphorylated tau (p-tau). What’s more, the Georgia Tech data analysis of multiple studies done on mice also turned up signs that multiple biochemical actors work together in Alzheimer’s to tear down neurons, the cells that the brain uses to do its work.

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