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Alzheimer's brain imaging advances

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Alzheimer’s brain imaging advances

By
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith
brain scan

5th January 2018 – Advances in brain imaging have uncovered for the first time how it’s thought Alzheimer’s disease spreads through the brain.

Scientists at the University of Cambridge believe this may allow the disease to be blocked early on to prevent it from spreading.

Key proteins

There are more than 520,000 people in the UK with Alzheimer’s disease. It can lead to memory loss, difficulties with thinking and problem-solving, and progressive loss of independence. It is the most common cause of dementia.

It’s already known that the symptoms are caused by the build-up of two abnormal proteins in the brain – amyloid beta and tau. It’s thought that amyloid beta occurs first, encouraging the spread of tau which goes on to destroy nerve cells.

What hasn’t been known is how tau spreads.

Modern imaging

Until as recently as about 5 years ago it was only possible to look at the build-up of abnormal proteins in people with Alzheimer’s by examining their brains after they had died.

However, developments in PET scans (positron emission tomography) have allowed scientists to begin imaging patients who are still alive by injecting them with a radioactive substance that attaches to tau and can be detected by the scanner.

Three scenarios

How tau spreads through the brain has been the subject of speculation by scientists and there were thought to be three possible scenarios:

  1. Transneuronal spread – when tau starts in one place and then spreads to other regions, setting off a chain reaction.
  2. Metabolic vulnerability – where tau is made locally in distressed nerve cells.
  3. Trophic support – suggesting some areas of the brain are more vulnerable to the spread of tau due to a possible lack of nutrition to the region.

New scans

Using the new scanning technique, a team led by scientists at the University of Cambridge looked at levels of tau and the functional connections, or wiring, in the brains of 17 older age patients with Alzheimer’s and compared this to people of a similar age without the disease.

The researchers say their findings support the idea of transneuronal spread – suggesting that tau spreads across the brain, infecting and destroying nerve cells as it goes, and causing the patient’s symptoms to get progressively worse.

The study findings have been published in the journal Brain and are important because the knowledge means in future it may be possible to slow or even stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease by developing drugs that stop tau from moving along neurons.

Study reaction

In an emailed statement, Dr Carol Routledge, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, told us: “Stopping or slowing the progression of diseases like Alzheimer’s is a key goal in dementia research and to have the best chance of success, we need to understand more about how toxic proteins spread through the brain and exert their effects.

“This important study sheds new light on how the tau protein spreads through nerve cells to damage more and more of the brain over time.”

Dr Routledge says the observation that tau spreads differently in Alzheimer’s to another tau-related brain disease ( progressive supranuclear palsy/PSP) is interesting and could now allow researchers to investigate more targeted approaches for blocking the spread of the protein in each disease.

However, she cautions: “While this study adds another piece to the puzzle, it doesn’t conclusively solve the crucial question of exactly how tau spreads through the brain. While the researchers used cutting-edge brain scanning techniques, they weren’t able to reveal all the forms of tau protein that could be playing a role in Alzheimer’s. This study gave a snapshot of the brain at one point in time, but future research can now use this innovative approach to build a more complete picture of how these diseases progress over time.”

Reviewed on January 05, 2018

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Alzheimer's brain imaging advances

By
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith
brain scan

5th January 2018 – Advances in brain imaging have uncovered for the first time how it's thought Alzheimer's disease spreads through the brain.

Scientists at the University of Cambridge believe this may allow the disease to be blocked early on to prevent it from spreading.

Key proteins

There are more than 520,000 people in the UK with Alzheimer's disease. It can lead to memory loss, difficulties with thinking and problem-solving, and progressive loss of independence. It is the most common cause of dementia.

It's already known that the symptoms are caused by the build-up of two abnormal proteins in the brain - amyloid beta and tau. It's thought that amyloid beta occurs first, encouraging the spread of tau which goes on to destroy nerve cells.

What hasn't been known is how tau spreads.

Modern imaging

Until as recently as about 5 years ago it was only possible to look at the build-up of abnormal proteins in people with Alzheimer's by examining their brains after they had died.

However, developments in PET scans (positron emission tomography) have allowed scientists to begin imaging patients who are still alive by injecting them with a radioactive substance that attaches to tau and can be detected by the scanner.

Three scenarios

How tau spreads through the brain has been the subject of speculation by scientists and there were thought to be three possible scenarios:

  1. Transneuronal spread – when tau starts in one place and then spreads to other regions, setting off a chain reaction.
  2. Metabolic vulnerability – where tau is made locally in distressed nerve cells.
  3. Trophic support - suggesting some areas of the brain are more vulnerable to the spread of tau due to a possible lack of nutrition to the region.

New scans

Using the new scanning technique, a team led by scientists at the University of Cambridge looked at levels of tau and the functional connections, or wiring, in the brains of 17 older age patients with Alzheimer's and compared this to people of a similar age without the disease.

The researchers say their findings support the idea of transneuronal spread - suggesting that tau spreads across the brain, infecting and destroying nerve cells as it goes, and causing the patient's symptoms to get progressively worse.

The study findings have been published in the journal Brain and are important because the knowledge means in future it may be possible to slow or even stop the progression of Alzheimer's disease by developing drugs that stop tau from moving along neurons.

Study reaction

In an emailed statement, Dr Carol Routledge, director of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, told us: "Stopping or slowing the progression of diseases like Alzheimer's is a key goal in dementia research and to have the best chance of success, we need to understand more about how toxic proteins spread through the brain and exert their effects.

"This important study sheds new light on how the tau protein spreads through nerve cells to damage more and more of the brain over time."

Dr Routledge says the observation that tau spreads differently in Alzheimer's to another tau-related brain disease ( progressive supranuclear palsy/PSP) is interesting and could now allow researchers to investigate more targeted approaches for blocking the spread of the protein in each disease.

However, she cautions: "While this study adds another piece to the puzzle, it doesn't conclusively solve the crucial question of exactly how tau spreads through the brain. While the researchers used cutting-edge brain scanning techniques, they weren't able to reveal all the forms of tau protein that could be playing a role in Alzheimer's. This study gave a snapshot of the brain at one point in time, but future research can now use this innovative approach to build a more complete picture of how these diseases progress over time."

Reviewed on January 05, 2018

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health and wellbeing.

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Alzheimer's disease health centre

Alzheimer's brain imaging advances

By
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith
brain scan

5th January 2018 – Advances in brain imaging have uncovered for the first time how it's thought Alzheimer's disease spreads through the brain.

Scientists at the University of Cambridge believe this may allow the disease to be blocked early on to prevent it from spreading.

Key proteins

There are more than 520,000 people in the UK with Alzheimer's disease. It can lead to memory loss, difficulties with thinking and problem-solving, and progressive loss of independence. It is the most common cause of dementia.

It's already known that the symptoms are caused by the build-up of two abnormal proteins in the brain - amyloid beta and tau. It's thought that amyloid beta occurs first, encouraging the spread of tau which goes on to destroy nerve cells.

What hasn't been known is how tau spreads.

Modern imaging

Until as recently as about 5 years ago it was only possible to look at the build-up of abnormal proteins in people with Alzheimer's by examining their brains after they had died.

However, developments in PET scans (positron emission tomography) have allowed scientists to begin imaging patients who are still alive by injecting them with a radioactive substance that attaches to tau and can be detected by the scanner.

Three scenarios

How tau spreads through the brain has been the subject of speculation by scientists and there were thought to be three possible scenarios:

  1. Transneuronal spread – when tau starts in one place and then spreads to other regions, setting off a chain reaction.
  2. Metabolic vulnerability – where tau is made locally in distressed nerve cells.
  3. Trophic support - suggesting some areas of the brain are more vulnerable to the spread of tau due to a possible lack of nutrition to the region.

New scans

Using the new scanning technique, a team led by scientists at the University of Cambridge looked at levels of tau and the functional connections, or wiring, in the brains of 17 older age patients with Alzheimer's and compared this to people of a similar age without the disease.

The researchers say their findings support the idea of transneuronal spread - suggesting that tau spreads across the brain, infecting and destroying nerve cells as it goes, and causing the patient's symptoms to get progressively worse.

The study findings have been published in the journal Brain and are important because the knowledge means in future it may be possible to slow or even stop the progression of Alzheimer's disease by developing drugs that stop tau from moving along neurons.

Study reaction

In an emailed statement, Dr Carol Routledge, director of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, told us: "Stopping or slowing the progression of diseases like Alzheimer's is a key goal in dementia research and to have the best chance of success, we need to understand more about how toxic proteins spread through the brain and exert their effects.

"This important study sheds new light on how the tau protein spreads through nerve cells to damage more and more of the brain over time."

Dr Routledge says the observation that tau spreads differently in Alzheimer's to another tau-related brain disease ( progressive supranuclear palsy/PSP) is interesting and could now allow researchers to investigate more targeted approaches for blocking the spread of the protein in each disease.

However, she cautions: "While this study adds another piece to the puzzle, it doesn't conclusively solve the crucial question of exactly how tau spreads through the brain. While the researchers used cutting-edge brain scanning techniques, they weren't able to reveal all the forms of tau protein that could be playing a role in Alzheimer's. This study gave a snapshot of the brain at one point in time, but future research can now use this innovative approach to build a more complete picture of how these diseases progress over time."

Reviewed on January 05, 2018

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health and wellbeing.

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Is your body ready for pregnancy?
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Sleep better tonight
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Understand this common condition
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What you need to know

Alzheimer's disease health centre

Alzheimer's brain imaging advances

By
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith
brain scan

5th January 2018 – Advances in brain imaging have uncovered for the first time how it's thought Alzheimer's disease spreads through the brain.

Scientists at the University of Cambridge believe this may allow the disease to be blocked early on to prevent it from spreading.

Key proteins

There are more than 520,000 people in the UK with Alzheimer's disease. It can lead to memory loss, difficulties with thinking and problem-solving, and progressive loss of independence. It is the most common cause of dementia.

It's already known that the symptoms are caused by the build-up of two abnormal proteins in the brain - amyloid beta and tau. It's thought that amyloid beta occurs first, encouraging the spread of tau which goes on to destroy nerve cells.

What hasn't been known is how tau spreads.

Modern imaging

Until as recently as about 5 years ago it was only possible to look at the build-up of abnormal proteins in people with Alzheimer's by examining their brains after they had died.

However, developments in PET scans (positron emission tomography) have allowed scientists to begin imaging patients who are still alive by injecting them with a radioactive substance that attaches to tau and can be detected by the scanner.

Three scenarios

How tau spreads through the brain has been the subject of speculation by scientists and there were thought to be three possible scenarios:

  1. Transneuronal spread – when tau starts in one place and then spreads to other regions, setting off a chain reaction.
  2. Metabolic vulnerability – where tau is made locally in distressed nerve cells.
  3. Trophic support - suggesting some areas of the brain are more vulnerable to the spread of tau due to a possible lack of nutrition to the region.

New scans

Using the new scanning technique, a team led by scientists at the University of Cambridge looked at levels of tau and the functional connections, or wiring, in the brains of 17 older age patients with Alzheimer's and compared this to people of a similar age without the disease.

The researchers say their findings support the idea of transneuronal spread - suggesting that tau spreads across the brain, infecting and destroying nerve cells as it goes, and causing the patient's symptoms to get progressively worse.

The study findings have been published in the journal Brain and are important because the knowledge means in future it may be possible to slow or even stop the progression of Alzheimer's disease by developing drugs that stop tau from moving along neurons.

Study reaction

In an emailed statement, Dr Carol Routledge, director of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, told us: "Stopping or slowing the progression of diseases like Alzheimer's is a key goal in dementia research and to have the best chance of success, we need to understand more about how toxic proteins spread through the brain and exert their effects.

"This important study sheds new light on how the tau protein spreads through nerve cells to damage more and more of the brain over time."

Dr Routledge says the observation that tau spreads differently in Alzheimer's to another tau-related brain disease ( progressive supranuclear palsy/PSP) is interesting and could now allow researchers to investigate more targeted approaches for blocking the spread of the protein in each disease.

However, she cautions: "While this study adds another piece to the puzzle, it doesn't conclusively solve the crucial question of exactly how tau spreads through the brain. While the researchers used cutting-edge brain scanning techniques, they weren't able to reveal all the forms of tau protein that could be playing a role in Alzheimer's. This study gave a snapshot of the brain at one point in time, but future research can now use this innovative approach to build a more complete picture of how these diseases progress over time."

Reviewed on January 05, 2018

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Looking after your
health and wellbeing.

Sign Up Now!

Popular slideshows & tools on BootsWebMD

woman_holding_head_in_pain
How to help headache pain
rash on skin
Top eczema triggers to avoid
79x79_causes_of_fatigue_and_how_to_fight_it.jpg
Causes of fatigue & how to fight it
period_questions_answered
Tips to support digestive health
woman looking at pregnancy test
Is your body ready for pregnancy?
woman sleeping
Sleep better tonight
girl_sneezing_into_tissue
Treating your child's cold or fever
bucket with cleaning supplies in it
Cleaning and organising tips
adult man contemplating
When illness makes it hard to eat
woman holding stomach
Understand this common condition
cold sore
What you need to know

Alzheimer's disease health centre

Alzheimer's disease health centre

Alzheimer's disease health centre

Alzheimer's disease health centre

Alzheimer's brain imaging advances

By
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith
brain scan

5th January 2018 – Advances in brain imaging have uncovered for the first time how it's thought Alzheimer's disease spreads through the brain.

Scientists at the University of Cambridge believe this may allow the disease to be blocked early on to prevent it from spreading.

Key proteins

There are more than 520,000 people in the UK with Alzheimer's disease. It can lead to memory loss, difficulties with thinking and problem-solving, and progressive loss of independence. It is the most common cause of dementia.

It's already known that the symptoms are caused by the build-up of two abnormal proteins in the brain - amyloid beta and tau. It's thought that amyloid beta occurs first, encouraging the spread of tau which goes on to destroy nerve cells.

What hasn't been known is how tau spreads.

Modern imaging

Until as recently as about 5 years ago it was only possible to look at the build-up of abnormal proteins in people with Alzheimer's by examining their brains after they had died.

However, developments in PET scans (positron emission tomography) have allowed scientists to begin imaging patients who are still alive by injecting them with a radioactive substance that attaches to tau and can be detected by the scanner.

Three scenarios

How tau spreads through the brain has been the subject of speculation by scientists and there were thought to be three possible scenarios:

  1. Transneuronal spread – when tau starts in one place and then spreads to other regions, setting off a chain reaction.
  2. Metabolic vulnerability – where tau is made locally in distressed nerve cells.
  3. Trophic support - suggesting some areas of the brain are more vulnerable to the spread of tau due to a possible lack of nutrition to the region.

New scans

Using the new scanning technique, a team led by scientists at the University of Cambridge looked at levels of tau and the functional connections, or wiring, in the brains of 17 older age patients with Alzheimer's and compared this to people of a similar age without the disease.

The researchers say their findings support the idea of transneuronal spread - suggesting that tau spreads across the brain, infecting and destroying nerve cells as it goes, and causing the patient's symptoms to get progressively worse.

The study findings have been published in the journal Brain and are important because the knowledge means in future it may be possible to slow or even stop the progression of Alzheimer's disease by developing drugs that stop tau from moving along neurons.

Study reaction

In an emailed statement, Dr Carol Routledge, director of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, told us: "Stopping or slowing the progression of diseases like Alzheimer's is a key goal in dementia research and to have the best chance of success, we need to understand more about how toxic proteins spread through the brain and exert their effects.

"This important study sheds new light on how the tau protein spreads through nerve cells to damage more and more of the brain over time."

Dr Routledge says the observation that tau spreads differently in Alzheimer's to another tau-related brain disease ( progressive supranuclear palsy/PSP) is interesting and could now allow researchers to investigate more targeted approaches for blocking the spread of the protein in each disease.

However, she cautions: "While this study adds another piece to the puzzle, it doesn't conclusively solve the crucial question of exactly how tau spreads through the brain. While the researchers used cutting-edge brain scanning techniques, they weren't able to reveal all the forms of tau protein that could be playing a role in Alzheimer's. This study gave a snapshot of the brain at one point in time, but future research can now use this innovative approach to build a more complete picture of how these diseases progress over time."

Reviewed on January 05, 2018

Alzheimer's brain imaging advances

By
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith
brain scan

5th January 2018 – Advances in brain imaging have uncovered for the first time how it's thought Alzheimer's disease spreads through the brain.

Scientists at the University of Cambridge believe this may allow the disease to be blocked early on to prevent it from spreading.

Key proteins

There are more than 520,000 people in the UK with Alzheimer's disease. It can lead to memory loss, difficulties with thinking and problem-solving, and progressive loss of independence. It is the most common cause of dementia.

It's already known that the symptoms are caused by the build-up of two abnormal proteins in the brain - amyloid beta and tau. It's thought that amyloid beta occurs first, encouraging the spread of tau which goes on to destroy nerve cells.

What hasn't been known is how tau spreads.

Modern imaging

Until as recently as about 5 years ago it was only possible to look at the build-up of abnormal proteins in people with Alzheimer's by examining their brains after they had died.

However, developments in PET scans (positron emission tomography) have allowed scientists to begin imaging patients who are still alive by injecting them with a radioactive substance that attaches to tau and can be detected by the scanner.

Three scenarios

How tau spreads through the brain has been the subject of speculation by scientists and there were thought to be three possible scenarios:

  1. Transneuronal spread – when tau starts in one place and then spreads to other regions, setting off a chain reaction.
  2. Metabolic vulnerability – where tau is made locally in distressed nerve cells.
  3. Trophic support - suggesting some areas of the brain are more vulnerable to the spread of tau due to a possible lack of nutrition to the region.

New scans

Using the new scanning technique, a team led by scientists at the University of Cambridge looked at levels of tau and the functional connections, or wiring, in the brains of 17 older age patients with Alzheimer's and compared this to people of a similar age without the disease.

The researchers say their findings support the idea of transneuronal spread - suggesting that tau spreads across the brain, infecting and destroying nerve cells as it goes, and causing the patient's symptoms to get progressively worse.

The study findings have been published in the journal Brain and are important because the knowledge means in future it may be possible to slow or even stop the progression of Alzheimer's disease by developing drugs that stop tau from moving along neurons.

Study reaction

In an emailed statement, Dr Carol Routledge, director of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, told us: "Stopping or slowing the progression of diseases like Alzheimer's is a key goal in dementia research and to have the best chance of success, we need to understand more about how toxic proteins spread through the brain and exert their effects.

"This important study sheds new light on how the tau protein spreads through nerve cells to damage more and more of the brain over time."

Dr Routledge says the observation that tau spreads differently in Alzheimer's to another tau-related brain disease ( progressive supranuclear palsy/PSP) is interesting and could now allow researchers to investigate more targeted approaches for blocking the spread of the protein in each disease.

However, she cautions: "While this study adds another piece to the puzzle, it doesn't conclusively solve the crucial question of exactly how tau spreads through the brain. While the researchers used cutting-edge brain scanning techniques, they weren't able to reveal all the forms of tau protein that could be playing a role in Alzheimer's. This study gave a snapshot of the brain at one point in time, but future research can now use this innovative approach to build a more complete picture of how these diseases progress over time."

Reviewed on January 05, 2018

Alzheimer's brain imaging advances

By
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith
brain scan

5th January 2018 – Advances in brain imaging have uncovered for the first time how it's thought Alzheimer's disease spreads through the brain.

Scientists at the University of Cambridge believe this may allow the disease to be blocked early on to prevent it from spreading.

Key proteins

There are more than 520,000 people in the UK with Alzheimer's disease. It can lead to memory loss, difficulties with thinking and problem-solving, and progressive loss of independence. It is the most common cause of dementia.

It's already known that the symptoms are caused by the build-up of two abnormal proteins in the brain - amyloid beta and tau. It's thought that amyloid beta occurs first, encouraging the spread of tau which goes on to destroy nerve cells.

What hasn't been known is how tau spreads.

Modern imaging

Until as recently as about 5 years ago it was only possible to look at the build-up of abnormal proteins in people with Alzheimer's by examining their brains after they had died.

However, developments in PET scans (positron emission tomography) have allowed scientists to begin imaging patients who are still alive by injecting them with a radioactive substance that attaches to tau and can be detected by the scanner.

Three scenarios

How tau spreads through the brain has been the subject of speculation by scientists and there were thought to be three possible scenarios:

  1. Transneuronal spread – when tau starts in one place and then spreads to other regions, setting off a chain reaction.
  2. Metabolic vulnerability – where tau is made locally in distressed nerve cells.
  3. Trophic support - suggesting some areas of the brain are more vulnerable to the spread of tau due to a possible lack of nutrition to the region.

New scans

Using the new scanning technique, a team led by scientists at the University of Cambridge looked at levels of tau and the functional connections, or wiring, in the brains of 17 older age patients with Alzheimer's and compared this to people of a similar age without the disease.

The researchers say their findings support the idea of transneuronal spread - suggesting that tau spreads across the brain, infecting and destroying nerve cells as it goes, and causing the patient's symptoms to get progressively worse.

The study findings have been published in the journal Brain and are important because the knowledge means in future it may be possible to slow or even stop the progression of Alzheimer's disease by developing drugs that stop tau from moving along neurons.

Study reaction

In an emailed statement, Dr Carol Routledge, director of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, told us: "Stopping or slowing the progression of diseases like Alzheimer's is a key goal in dementia research and to have the best chance of success, we need to understand more about how toxic proteins spread through the brain and exert their effects.

"This important study sheds new light on how the tau protein spreads through nerve cells to damage more and more of the brain over time."

Dr Routledge says the observation that tau spreads differently in Alzheimer's to another tau-related brain disease ( progressive supranuclear palsy/PSP) is interesting and could now allow researchers to investigate more targeted approaches for blocking the spread of the protein in each disease.

However, she cautions: "While this study adds another piece to the puzzle, it doesn't conclusively solve the crucial question of exactly how tau spreads through the brain. While the researchers used cutting-edge brain scanning techniques, they weren't able to reveal all the forms of tau protein that could be playing a role in Alzheimer's. This study gave a snapshot of the brain at one point in time, but future research can now use this innovative approach to build a more complete picture of how these diseases progress over time."

Reviewed on January 05, 2018

Alzheimer's brain imaging advances

By
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith
brain scan

5th January 2018 – Advances in brain imaging have uncovered for the first time how it's thought Alzheimer's disease spreads through the brain.

Scientists at the University of Cambridge believe this may allow the disease to be blocked early on to prevent it from spreading.

Key proteins

There are more than 520,000 people in the UK with Alzheimer's disease. It can lead to memory loss, difficulties with thinking and problem-solving, and progressive loss of independence. It is the most common cause of dementia.

It's already known that the symptoms are caused by the build-up of two abnormal proteins in the brain - amyloid beta and tau. It's thought that amyloid beta occurs first, encouraging the spread of tau which goes on to destroy nerve cells.

What hasn't been known is how tau spreads.

Modern imaging

Until as recently as about 5 years ago it was only possible to look at the build-up of abnormal proteins in people with Alzheimer's by examining their brains after they had died.

However, developments in PET scans (positron emission tomography) have allowed scientists to begin imaging patients who are still alive by injecting them with a radioactive substance that attaches to tau and can be detected by the scanner.

Three scenarios

How tau spreads through the brain has been the subject of speculation by scientists and there were thought to be three possible scenarios:

  1. Transneuronal spread – when tau starts in one place and then spreads to other regions, setting off a chain reaction.
  2. Metabolic vulnerability – where tau is made locally in distressed nerve cells.
  3. Trophic support - suggesting some areas of the brain are more vulnerable to the spread of tau due to a possible lack of nutrition to the region.

New scans

Using the new scanning technique, a team led by scientists at the University of Cambridge looked at levels of tau and the functional connections, or wiring, in the brains of 17 older age patients with Alzheimer's and compared this to people of a similar age without the disease.

The researchers say their findings support the idea of transneuronal spread - suggesting that tau spreads across the brain, infecting and destroying nerve cells as it goes, and causing the patient's symptoms to get progressively worse.

The study findings have been published in the journal Brain and are important because the knowledge means in future it may be possible to slow or even stop the progression of Alzheimer's disease by developing drugs that stop tau from moving along neurons.

Study reaction

In an emailed statement, Dr Carol Routledge, director of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, told us: "Stopping or slowing the progression of diseases like Alzheimer's is a key goal in dementia research and to have the best chance of success, we need to understand more about how toxic proteins spread through the brain and exert their effects.

"This important study sheds new light on how the tau protein spreads through nerve cells to damage more and more of the brain over time."

Dr Routledge says the observation that tau spreads differently in Alzheimer's to another tau-related brain disease ( progressive supranuclear palsy/PSP) is interesting and could now allow researchers to investigate more targeted approaches for blocking the spread of the protein in each disease.

However, she cautions: "While this study adds another piece to the puzzle, it doesn't conclusively solve the crucial question of exactly how tau spreads through the brain. While the researchers used cutting-edge brain scanning techniques, they weren't able to reveal all the forms of tau protein that could be playing a role in Alzheimer's. This study gave a snapshot of the brain at one point in time, but future research can now use this innovative approach to build a more complete picture of how these diseases progress over time."

Reviewed on January 05, 2018

Alzheimer's brain imaging advances

By
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith
brain scan

5th January 2018 – Advances in brain imaging have uncovered for the first time how it's thought Alzheimer's disease spreads through the brain.

Scientists at the University of Cambridge believe this may allow the disease to be blocked early on to prevent it from spreading.

Key proteins

There are more than 520,000 people in the UK with Alzheimer's disease. It can lead to memory loss, difficulties with thinking and problem-solving, and progressive loss of independence. It is the most common cause of dementia.

It's already known that the symptoms are caused by the build-up of two abnormal proteins in the brain - amyloid beta and tau. It's thought that amyloid beta occurs first, encouraging the spread of tau which goes on to destroy nerve cells.

What hasn't been known is how tau spreads.

Modern imaging

Until as recently as about 5 years ago it was only possible to look at the build-up of abnormal proteins in people with Alzheimer's by examining their brains after they had died.

However, developments in PET scans (positron emission tomography) have allowed scientists to begin imaging patients who are still alive by injecting them with a radioactive substance that attaches to tau and can be detected by the scanner.

Three scenarios

How tau spreads through the brain has been the subject of speculation by scientists and there were thought to be three possible scenarios:

  1. Transneuronal spread – when tau starts in one place and then spreads to other regions, setting off a chain reaction.
  2. Metabolic vulnerability – where tau is made locally in distressed nerve cells.
  3. Trophic support - suggesting some areas of the brain are more vulnerable to the spread of tau due to a possible lack of nutrition to the region.

New scans

Using the new scanning technique, a team led by scientists at the University of Cambridge looked at levels of tau and the functional connections, or wiring, in the brains of 17 older age patients with Alzheimer's and compared this to people of a similar age without the disease.

The researchers say their findings support the idea of transneuronal spread - suggesting that tau spreads across the brain, infecting and destroying nerve cells as it goes, and causing the patient's symptoms to get progressively worse.

The study findings have been published in the journal Brain and are important because the knowledge means in future it may be possible to slow or even stop the progression of Alzheimer's disease by developing drugs that stop tau from moving along neurons.

Study reaction

In an emailed statement, Dr Carol Routledge, director of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, told us: "Stopping or slowing the progression of diseases like Alzheimer's is a key goal in dementia research and to have the best chance of success, we need to understand more about how toxic proteins spread through the brain and exert their effects.

"This important study sheds new light on how the tau protein spreads through nerve cells to damage more and more of the brain over time."

Dr Routledge says the observation that tau spreads differently in Alzheimer's to another tau-related brain disease ( progressive supranuclear palsy/PSP) is interesting and could now allow researchers to investigate more targeted approaches for blocking the spread of the protein in each disease.

However, she cautions: "While this study adds another piece to the puzzle, it doesn't conclusively solve the crucial question of exactly how tau spreads through the brain. While the researchers used cutting-edge brain scanning techniques, they weren't able to reveal all the forms of tau protein that could be playing a role in Alzheimer's. This study gave a snapshot of the brain at one point in time, but future research can now use this innovative approach to build a more complete picture of how these diseases progress over time."

Sources

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Dr Irfanullah Khan Born: 15th July,1994 in Khagram,Dir Upper KPK Pakistan. Others names:Doctor Irfo,Peshoo Education:Pharm-D Scholar Graduated from Abasyn University Peshawar. Occupation:Clinical Pharmacist,Doctor,Entrepreneur. Home Town:Dir Upper Height: 6 feet. Website:Iukmedonline.com

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