Tau Protein Mutations Confirmed as Neuron Killers

Science  05 Jun 1998:
Vol. 280, Issue 5369, pp. 1524-1525
DOI: 10.1126/science.280.5369.1524

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The protein called tau has long been an unconfirmed suspect in the neuronal wreckage of Alzheimer's disease, but now, fresh revelations are reigniting the case against tau. New evidence reported in the June Annals of Neurology, for example, suggests that tau gene mutations cause a rare inherited dementia that, like Alzheimer's, is characterized by brain tangles. In addition, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences will report later this month that another tau mutation causes a related genetic condition. And as-yet-unpublished work from other labs has linked tau mutations to over a dozen more of these hereditary dementias, collectively called "frontotemporal dementia and Parkinsonism linked to chromosome 17." Researchers now hope that they will be able to piece together how tau abnormalities lead to brain cell degeneration and perhaps how that degeneration might be prevented.