Researchers at Columbia and Harvard performed an experiment with genetically engineered mice that could make abnormal human tau proteins and have found a path for the spread of Alzheimer’s disease:
Alzheimer’s researchers have long known that dying, tau-filled cells first emerge in a small area of the brain where memories are made and stored. The disease then slowly moves outward to larger areas that involve remembering and reasoning.
But for more than a quarter-century, researchers have been unable to decide between two explanations. One is that the spread may mean that the disease is transmitted from neuron to neuron, perhaps along the paths that nerve cells use to communicate with one another. Or it could simply mean that some brain areas are more resilient than others and resist the disease longer.
The new studies provide an answer. And they indicate it may be possible to bring Alzheimer’s disease to an abrupt halt early on by preventing cell-to-cell transmission, perhaps with an antibody that blocks tau.
According to Wikipedia, there are more than 25 million sufferers of Alzheimer’s worldwide. This is a disease that is predicted to affect 1 in 85 people globally by 2050. It’s encouraging to see progress being made in this field, even if we are many years away from a cure.