Growing knowledge of Alzheimer’s-linked proteins

Amyloid imaging has held center stage in research into the process of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), but studies presented at last month’s Alzheimer's Association International Conference revealed how far tau imaging has come as well as new insights into yet another protein implicated in AD.

At the conference, Keith Johnson, MD, from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues presented results of one of the largest tau PET studies of its kind to assess the effect tau deposits in the brain had on declining memory in subjects with normal cognitive function. A total of 56 adults were included in the study.

Results showed that higher levels of tau were associated with declining memory function, suggesting that tau deposition could help identify AD before the onset of symptoms.

Another study presented at the conference focused not on tau or amyloid, but on a protein newly suspected of impacting neurodegenerative disease. This protein, called TAR DNA binding protein of 43kDa (TDP-43), was studied by Keith Josephs, MD, from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and colleagues.

Josephs and colleagues looked at autopsy data from 342 subjects who had been diagnosed with AD. Of these patients, nearly 200 had TDP-43 deposition, and those who did were up to 10 times more likely to suffer cognitive decline by the time of their death compared with those who did not have such deposits.

The researchers said the findings suggested that TDP-43 amplifies memory loss and hippocampal atrophy in AD and is a key player in the neurodegenerative process.

We’ll continue to watch as more research is conducted on the impact of TDP-43 and tau in the years ahead.

-Evan Godt
Editor – Health Imaging