Mayo Clinic Study Breakthrough: Alzheimer’s Is Linked to Toxic Proteins in the Brain

A large scale Mayo Clinic study recently conducted produced shocking results – the toxic protein tau may be responsible for Alzheimer’s and cognitive degeneration.

For the past several decades, neurologists and researchers have focused on amyloid, a toxic protein found in the brain that was thought to contribute to cognitive decline, the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. However, in a groundbreaking new study, Mayo Clinic researchers have found that another toxic protein may be the true culprit.

The researchers surveyed over 3,000 brains of deceased individuals that had been donated to the Mayo Clinic. Approximately one third of these belonged to Alzheimer’s patients, though these patients had died at different stages of the disease and at different ages. Using these brains, the researchers were able to map out key characteristics of Alzheimer’s sufferers, as well as a timeline for cognitive degeneration.

Tau and amyloid proteins were both found in the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers. However, this long-range, large-scale study allowed the researchers to finally evaluate the impact of these proteins throughout the lifecycle of the disease. Using a scoring rubric for the two proteins, the researchers found that the prevalence of tau and not amyloid was the key predictor for Alzheimer’s. Using the severity of tau, the researchers were able to map out the predicted age of onset of cognitive deterioration.

One shocking discovery of the study showed that amyloid can be present in vast quantities in brains of older individuals who do not have Alzheimer’s or mental degeneration. This has led researchers to believe it is tau and not amyloid that is causing the memory decline prevalent in Alzheimer’s patients. Tau appears to kill neurons while amyloid appears to cause neurons to miscommunicate. The researchers liken this to the sufferer’s inability to save or store memories due to tau, whereas amyloid appears to only cause issues with retrieving memories that are in fact stored somewhere in the brain.

Despite the groundbreaking nature of the findings, the medical world is currently ill-equipped to treat issues caused by tau. In fact, the medical world does not currently have means of conducting tau brain scanning to detect prevalence of tau. While amyloid brain scanning has been popular in the medical community for a while, it is now imperative for the field to develop means of utilizing the findings of this study to detect tau in order to earlier diagnose and treat Alzheimer’s.

elderly couple.jpgAlzheimer’s is a deadly brain disease. Named after a German psychiatrist who first identified the disease in a patient in 1901, it is a form of dementia that destroys memory and cognitive function and accounts for up to 80% of dementia cases. Ten percent of the world’s population over 65 is afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. Early onset Alzheimer’s is usually not detected. The disease begins with mild forgetfulness or confusion, then progresses to an inability to remember old or even recent memories. Sufferers have difficulty organizing thoughts and recognizing once well-known people, places or things.

At this time, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, thus it is imperative that the disease is detected as early as possible and correctly diagnosed. Some medications may help ease the memory symptoms. In addition, doctors recommend memory drills, as well as a healthy diet with exercise.

Individuals with Alzheimer’s are especially vulnerable. Therefore, it is important to ensure they are receiving proper diagnosis, care, and treatment. Alzheimer’s patients may run into issues with misdiagnosis or ineffective treatment plans. In addition, due to their limited cognitive function in late-stage Alzheimer’s, many sufferers are susceptible to abuse in nursing homes. These sufferers are especially defenseless to nursing home abuse because they either do not remember the abuse or cannot comprehend it when it occurs.

If you believe a loved one suffering with Alzheimer’s disease is being abused by nursing home staff, please contact the experienced New York nursing home attorneys at Gallivan and Gallivan today to discuss your potential claim.

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