UT Southwestern researchers say the identification of a molecular Alzheimer’s trigger can be used to predict which type of dementia will develop in patients. The knowledge can be used to diagnose and possibly treat the degenerative neurological disorder.
A new study has identified how the tau protein’s shape gives information about which type of dementia will develop, and was created with the help of a larger network of researchers who hope to improve treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. An earlier study from the same lab found a molecular clue to how Alzheimer’s disease forms.
“Our expanded understanding of the tau protein structure changes how we think about detecting and treating Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias,” said Dr. Marc Diamond, Director of UT Southwestern’s Center for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases via release. “The next step is to translate this knowledge into simple clinical tests that doctors will use to diagnose and eventually stop the neurodegeneration process at its earliest stages.”
Diamond hopes to use these findings in a clinical test to detect the earliest signs of the protein’s abnormality, before the memory loss and cognitive lapses occur. He is also hoping to stop the mutation that causes the disease.
“We need to be able to diagnose the process early and know the specific type of neurodegeneration that is occurring, because that is the best chance we have to intervene with a personalized treatment,” Diamond said via release.
Diamond worked with Dr. Lukasz Joachimiak, Assistant Professor in the Center for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases and an Effie Marie Cain Scholar in Medical Research, and Dr. Charles White, Professor of Pathology and the Nancy R. McCune Distinguished Chair in Alzheimer’s Disease Research.