Texas researchers have discovered a potential new way to halt the progression of dementia seen in Alzheimer's disease patients by blocking the accumulation of a protein linked to the memory-stealing condition that affects more than five million Americans.
Scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston found that removing a form of what is known as the "tau protein" from the brain — which can interfere with brain-cell communication when it builds up too much over time — effectively halts dementia in its tracks.
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The findings were observed in studies of mice, but researchers believe the same mechanisms are at work in the brains of Alzheimer's patients and the new study could pave the way for a dementia vaccine to prevent or slow the disease, Medical Xpress
"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," said UTMB neurology professor Rakez Kayed, who helped lead the study. "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."
Normally, tau protein acts as a brain cell's transportation system for carrying nutrients in and waste out. But in dementia patients the tau protein malfunctions and begins accumulating and interfering with cell-to-cell communications. Without the ability to receive signals, the brain cells become dysfunctional and die off — leading to memory loss, thinking difficulties, and other cognitive impairments.
In the new study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the Texas scientists demonstrated that treatment with a monoclonal antibody, called TOMA, prevented the protein's interfere with cell-to-cell communication and improved the animals' performance on memory tests.
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