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Friday, February 13, 2015

New Tracer Allows Direct Visualization of Tau

Dear Readers,

At the recent Human Amyloid Imaging Conference, researchers presented results from brain imaging studies using a new tracer called AV1451 that allows for direct visualization of tau, the key component of neurofibrillary tangles. As readers of this blog will recall, tangles are one of the two main brain changes in Alzheimer’s disease, the other being amyloid plaques. The results from the latest studies indicate that that tangles actually correlate more strongly than amyloid with brain shrinkage and memory decline in Alzheimer’s disease. Together, the data strengthen the notion that while amyloid and tau pathology begin independently in separate brain areas, the presence of amyloid somehow accelerates the spread of tau leading to brain cell injury and eventual brain cell death. Tangles are seen in many other forms of dementia, including frontotemporal dementia, progressive supranuclear palsy, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which has been reported in former athletes who have sustained repetitive concussions.

With brain imaging capabilities for both amyloid plaques and tau tangles, researchers hope to soon understand the relationship between amyloid and tau. The data presented at this meeting from people who have had both amyloid and tau imaging strengthens the concept that almost everyone develops some tangles with age, the presence of which impairs memory slightly but does not cause full blown dementia. However, in those people who also develop amyloid plaques, the neurofibrillary tangles somehow increase and spread throughout the brain.

Tau imaging is an extremely powerful tool and quickly being added to numerous clinical studies, including interventional trials with new treatments. By including both amyloid and tau imaging, we will be able to capture the progression of AD on a molecular level over time in patients and better understand the ideal timing for beginning interventions.

Thanks for reading,

Michael Rafii, MD, PhD
Director, Memory Disorders Clinic
Medical Core Director
Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study
University of California San Diego
Author: Michael Rafii MD,PhD at 4:19 PM 0 Comments

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The Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS) was formed in 1991 as a cooperative agreement between the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the University of California, San Diego. The ADCS is a major initiative for Alzheimer's disease (AD) clinical studies in the Federal government, addressing treatments for both cognitive and behavioral symptoms. This is part of the NIA Division of Neuroscience's effort to facilitate the discovery, development and testing of new drugs for the treatment of AD and also is part of the Alzheimer's Disease Prevention Initiative.

The ADCS was developed in response to a perceived need to advance research in the development of drugs that might be useful for treating patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD), particularly drugs that might not be developed by industry.