Scientists have uncovered the atomic structure of the protein known as tau protein that is responsible for the progression of Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative ailments for the first time. With this discovery, many new treatments may be produced to prevent the protein from forming and fight the said diseases.
The findings of the discovery were published in the journal Nature. The work was led by researchers from MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in the U.K.
Bernardino Ghetti, one of the researchers from Indiana University, described the discovery as a tremendous step forward. He said that tau is extremely important to the progression of Alzheimer's diseases and certain forms of dementia. He added that in terms of designing therapeutic agents, the possibilities are now enormous.
NHS reports that two proteins could contribute to the progression of Alzheimer. These are the beta amyloid plaques and tau protein. The tau could serve as a stabilizer in a healthy brain. On the other hand, when it becomes defective, they could develop into tangled filaments. This leads to hampering communication between brain cells and could develop into neurodegeneration and other diseases such as Alzheimer.
In the study, the scientists obtained tau protein filaments from the brain of a dead patient with Alzheimer's disease. They imaged them by utilizing a technique known as cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM). The scientists could now examine how the abnormal filaments function at an atomic level in the human brain. The team said that studying these tangles of tau protein will not only benefit Alzheimer's disease research.
Michel Goedert, a neuroscientist from LMB, said that this is a big step forward as far as tau goes but it is bigger than that. He further said that this is the first time anybody has determined the high-resolution structure from human brain samples for any of these diseases. He added that the next step is to use this information to study the mechanisms of neurodegeneration, as Science Alert noted.