Alzheimer researchers contemplate the tau of plaques

Alzheimer researchers contemplate the tau of plaques

Summary: We can fight the plaques. We can fight the tau. But can we really cure the disease? Maybe. And considering how fast the disease is catching on, we need to turn a maybe into a yes fast.

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TOPICS: Health
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Fred and Mamie Blankenhorn, 1986, from the authorAt this week's meeting of the Alzheimer's Association there are a lot of complex terms being bandied-about, concerning how to detect the disease, how it progresses, and how to fight it.

But it seems to come down to two simple concepts, which I call the tau of plaques. (My grandfather died of this disease, and given reader reaction last time I used this picture I figured it was worth using again.)

For clinicians it's actually an either-or, tau or plaques? Should drugs aim at the beta amyloid plaques we know are the cause of the disease, or the tau tangles which are its direct manifestation?

The big news of the last year is studies showing that perhaps focus should shift, away from the plaques and toward the tau. Unfortunately these are "mid-stage" studies, with a small number of patients, so no conclusion can yet be drawn.

Wall Street has bet heavily on the plaques, specifically a drug called Bapineuzumab which reduces them. But early results here are not promising, and despite the attempts by Wyeth and Elan to spin them, Wall Street is no longer so impressed.

A BBC story which came out this week showed that attacking the tau tangles may have more promise. More important, perhaps, is that the drug being tested, methylthioninium chloride, is based on methylene blue, a chemical dye with many other uses.

Called Rember by University of Aberdeen researchers, it's said to be twice as effective in reducing symptoms as Aricept, the current most-advertised Alzheimer's product.

But there were only 321 people in the Rember study, 80 at each of three doses of Rember and a placebo group.

So that's where we are. We can fight the plaques. We can fight the tau. But can we really cure the disease? Maybe. And considering how fast the disease is catching on, we need to turn a maybe into a yes fast.

Topic: Health

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  • I think alzheimers has been around much longer than people believe

    So this "its here and getting worse" fear mongering isnt true. There are just more people now. The early baby boomers were reaching ages where people start to get affected. People are living longer, so this disease actually has more people it can affect.

    BTW, i am not just targetting this disease with these sentiments, i reply this way to anyone who says things like this are getting worse.

    More people more problems... its just that simple.

    With that little rant out of the way, i say, yes FIND A CURE! Attack it from all angles at one time, no need to discount one method versus another until the results are in and the studies are done.

    Both my grandparents died of cancer. I say, find a complete cure for it! But i digress, no one disease is more important than another, i wish we had a cure for them all.
    Been_Done_Before