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What's behind the onset of Alzheimer's?

What's behind the onset of Alzheimer's?
17th November 2014

A key part of the battle against Alzheimer's is working out what the root cause of the disease is, but there seems to be some discrepancy among scientists.

While the buildup of amyloid-beta is generally considered to be the hallmark, researchers in Georgetown, Washington believe it's actually malfunctioning tau proteins that are the cause of the degenerative condition.

Tau provides a structure for cells to get rid of any unwanted or toxic proteins, but when it fails, this spurs on the death of neurons.

While the accumulation of amyloid-beta as a harbinger has been widely reported, one issue remains - some people with a buildup of plaque do not develop the disease.

If faulty tau proteins are indeed the trigger for the onset of the condition, then this would explain why not everyone with an excess of amyloid-beta experiences this form of cognitive decline. 

Senior investigator Dr Charbel E-H Moussa said: "When tau does not function, the cell cannot remove the garbage, which at that point includes [amyloid-beta] as well as tangles of nonfunctioning tau - and the cell dies."

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