Protein connected with Alzheimer’s disease use the brain’s cells as a “Trojan Horse” to intensify the disease. The protein ‘tau’ which is present in the healthy brain cells is used by our brain for normal function to connect the neuron ‘tangles’, which is the core area of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
The team from the Queensland Brain Institute at UQ have been trying to find how the protein spreads through the brain after an initial build-up, eventually causing these tangles.
Dementia expert Professor Jürgen Götz said their research revealed that the protein is carried by small sacs of material produced by brain cells called exosomes, which function like mails/letters – physical packets sent between two points which contains information. The brain unfortunately punches holes in these sacs, allowing the tau protein to spill out.
“This is all a natural mechanism of the cells in the brain, it’s almost like these cells are acting like Trojan horses, they contain these proteins that spill out and cause this damaging effect”. Professor Götz says that now they have an understanding of how the protein is spreading through the brain, they can work on ways to halt its spread before it affects large areas of a sufferer’s neural network.
Currently, there is no treatment to either prevent or stop the effect of Alzheimer’s, with the only treatment currently available focusing on reducing the worst of the symptoms.