11:23am Tuesday 24 October 2017

UTMB study offers new insight into how Alzheimer’s disease begins

“Early detection of Alzheimer’s warning signs would allow for early intervention and prevention of neurodegeneration before major brain cell loss and cognitive decline occurs,” said lead author Ashley Nilson, a neuroscience graduate student. “Using the retina for detecting AD and other neurodegenerative diseases would be non-invasive, inexpensive and could become a part of a normal screening done at patient checkups.”

UTMB researchers have previously found evidence that a toxic form of tau protein may underlie the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Brain cells depend on tau protein to form highways for the cell to receive nutrients and get rid of waste. In some neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, the tau protein changes into a toxic form called tau oligomers and begins clumping into neurofibrillary tangles. When this happens, molecular nutrients can no longer move to where they are needed and the oligomers produce toxic effects leading to the eventual death of the brain cells.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that inflammation within the brain plays an important role in Alzheimer’s development and progression. Inflammation and loss of connections between nerves within the brain happen before the formation of the tangles that are characteristic of this disease. It’s possible that the tau oligomers may be responsible for this inflammation.

In a recent paper in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, UTMB’s research team detailed their investigation on the relationship between inflammation, toxic tau and Alzheimer’s onset by performing systematic analyses of brain and retina samples from people with Alzheimer’s and a mouse model of Alzheimer’s.

The results demonstrated that the toxic tau may induce inflammation in Alzheimer’s. The toxic tau spreads between connected brain regions, which may initiate inflammation in these new regions. This situation can create a cycle of toxic tau, inflammation and cell death throughout the brain over time.

Beyond determining eye health and corrective lens prescriptions, having an eye exam can alert health care professionals of several different health conditions including diabetic complications, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Now, UTMB researchers found that retina tissue that they studied can show evidence of toxic tau and inflammation.

“Our findings suggest that the degeneration of nerve cells due to chronic inflammation induced by the tau oligomers may be combated through the combination of anti-tau oligomer and anti-inflammatory therapeutics for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and related diseases,” said senior author Rakez Kayed, associate professor in the UTMB Department of Neurology. “Our is continuing to expand our understanding of neurodegenerative diseases.”

The authors include a team of collaborative scientists and doctors including UTMB’s Kelsey English, Julia Gerson, T. Barton Whittle, C. Nicholas Crain, Judy Xue, Urmi Sengupta, Diana Castillo-Carranza, Wenbo Zhang and Praveena Gupta.

The work was supported by the UTMB Mitchell Center for Neurodegenerative Disease, the University of Texas System Neuroscience and Neurotechnology Research Institute and Retina Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

The University of Texas Medical Branch
Office of Marketing and Communications
301 University Boulevard, Suite 3.518
Galveston, Texas 77555-0144
UTMB Newsroom

UTMB Media Hotline: 409-772-NEWS (6397)

Please Note: Our studio is equipped with a technology that enables us to transmit live or taped HD or SD video over the Internet. For video interviews, contact us at 409-772-6397.

Contact: Donna Ramirez at 409-772-8791 or donna.ramirez@utmb.edu

ABOUT UTMB HEALTH: Texas’ first academic health center opened its doors in 1891 and today comprises four health sciences schools, three institutes for advanced study, a research enterprise that includes one of only two national laboratories dedicated to the safe study of infectious threats to human health, a Level 1 Trauma Center and a health system offering a full range of primary and specialized medical services throughout Galveston County and the Texas Gulf Coast region. UTMB Health is a part of the University of Texas System and a member of the Texas Medical Center.


Share on:
or:

MORE FROM Alzheimer’s

Health news