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Studies Show Drug May Prevent Alzheimer’s-Related Tau Damage

By Lauren Robison, 9:00 am on

Statistics indicate that nearly 50 million adults around the world have Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s Disease International claims that by 2050 the number of adults with the condition could rise to more than 131 million. Researchers know tau proteins are a major contributing factor in the development of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disease processes. However, a group of scientists from the Washington University School of Medicine recently created a formula that could interfere with abnormal tau protein processes. 

If you are the primary family caregiver for an elderly loved one and need additional assistance providing high-quality home care, New Hampshire Home Care Assistance can help. We are a leading home care agency committed to changing the way seniors age. As part of our commitment to senior care, we want to share some scientific findings that show promise for enhancing the lives of seniors with Alzheimer’s.

Significance of Tau Proteins

Tau proteins are generally abundant in nerve cells, and along with another protein tubulin they can create and stabilize the microtubules found near the ends of the axons in nerve microtubules. Before tau proteins become useful, they undergo a process known as phosphorylation. However, when hyperphosphorylation occurs in the helical and straight filaments of the protein tangle, it disrupts normal nerve cell transmission. The tangles eventually clump and damage nerve cells. 

As Alzheimer’s progresses, it can significantly impact a senior’s quality of life. Performing daily tasks while simultaneously managing the symptoms of a serious illness can be challenging for seniors. The New Hampshire 24-hour care experts at Home Care Assistance are available 24/7 to make sure your loved one has the care he or she needs to remain safe and comfortable while aging in place.

Washington University Discovery

Scientists from Washington University, the St. Louis-based school of medicine, found they could decrease tau protein levels and reverse some of the damage done by tau tangles. A synthetic molecule hones in on the genetic material needed to create the proteins. By regulating tau protein formation, abnormal forms of the protein decrease. 

The process involves oligonucleotide treatments, which already have FDA approval for treating Duchenne muscular dystrophy and spinal muscular atrophy. Antisense oligonucleotides interfere with protein formation by binding to and destroying messenger RNA before it has the chance to pass genetic instructions. Without the information, the proteins cannot form. 

Laboratory Trial 

Researchers initially injected very young laboratory mice with abnormal tau proteins that cause nerve cell damage in humans. Three months later, nerve damage began. By six months, the proteins began tangling. 

When the mice were nine months old, scientists administered the anti-tau oligonucleotide molecule to one group. The control group received a placebo. The treatments were given every other day for 30 days. When the mice were 12 months old, researchers evaluated the animals for the levels of tau proteins, the amount of tangles, and the levels of tau RNA. They found all three factors were substantially reduced, unlike the control group. The decreased levels of tau proteins compared to the initial nine-month findings were also encouraging. 

At nine months, each untreated or placebo-treated mouse displayed significant damage to the hippocampus in the form of shrinkage. This area of the brain is vital for learning and memory. However, in the oligonucleotide-treated mice, the areas were normal in appearance. The mice functioned normally in terms of behavior, social skills and cognitive ability. The animals interacted with each other, built nests, and performed other normal activities. They also lived more than one month longer compared to their counterparts. 

Further Testing

Human trials are underway to determine the effects of oligonucleotide therapy on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Huntington’s chorea. Researchers hope to find if the treatment lowers tau protein levels and whether the therapy is safe for humans. 

Alzheimer’s can be challenging for seniors to manage without assistance, and it can be just as challenging for families who do not have experience in providing Alzheimer’s care. For trusted New Hampshire Alzheimer’s care, reach out to Home Care Assistance. Our proprietary Cognitive Therapeutics Method was designed to help seniors with Alzheimer’s and other memory-related conditions live happier and healthier lives. To learn more about our elderly care services, call (603) 471-3004 and speak with one of our qualified Care Managers to schedule a complimentary consultation.