One of these proteins that goes awry is tau. In a normal brain, tau acts like scaffolding or a frame to help keep neurons in their proper formation. Abnormal tau, on the other hand, significantly impairs the brain’s communication system, leading to the collapse and death of neurons. The propagation of abnormal tau is a hallmark of some neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s which are collectively termed tauopathies.
This article suggests tau protein aggregates first in a small number of brain cells, from where they grow and move to other regions. Different molecular ‘strains’ of aggregated tau exist; and by growing and moving to different parts of the brain, they may give rise to different diseases. Most importantly, the different strains seem to spread in the same way.
Why does this matter? Well, since the same pathophysiological mechanism of growing and moving appears to be common to all of these tauopathies, a successful treatment for one disease (for example Progressive Supranuclear Palsy) could also help treat other tau diseases (for example Alzheimer’s).
In other words, if researchers can understand and treat one disease, it could open the door to treating several other different diseases that have the same underlying cause.
Fun Facts About Me