Nov. 17, 2010 Too many small aggregates of a protein called tau in the brain can directly interfere with memory, according to new animal research presented at Neuroscience 2010, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, held in San Diego.
"Our findings are important because they suggest that tau may be a good target for developing therapies against Alzheimer's and related diseases," said senior author Ottavio Arancio, PhD, of Columbia University.
Many neurodegenerative diseases are marked by an accumulation of protein aggregates in the brain, and Alzheimer's disease is no exception. The two most common aggregating proteins associated with Alzheimer's disease are amyloid- beta and tau, which form the neural plaques and tangles that are hallmarks of the disease. Recently, scientists have begun to focus on some of the smaller, still-soluble forms of these protein aggregates, called oligomers, which may be especially toxic to neurons.
Arancio and his colleagues found that tau oligomers impaired fearful memories in mice. Tau oligomers also disrupted synaptic plasticity -- cellular events important for memory formation.
"Our findings suggest that tau is critically involved in the development of Alzheimer's disease -- and that reducing the abnormal aggregation of the protein may prove to be an effective treatment approach," Arancio said.
Research was supported by the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and Oligomerix, Inc.
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