Jhon Kennedy’s relatives understood the illness they faced. For more than three decades, researchers there have been tracking a genetic mutation — common in the region — that causes Alzheimer’s to strike people in their 40s and 50s.
[New imaging procedures] will allow the researchers to track a protein called tau, which accumulates rapidly in the brains of people with the disease as symptoms begin to emerge. Watching tau form in real time could reveal the role it plays in Alzheimer’s, says Francisco Lopera, the neurologist who is leading the research.
The genetic mutation that affected Jhon Kennedy’s father and uncles is famous in the field of Alzheimer’s research. It probably arrived in South America with Spanish conquerors 375 years ago, and now affects 25 extended families in Antioquia with more than 5,000 members. Researchers have published dozens of papers about this group, including some of the clearest proof that amyloid plaques can accumulate in the brain decades before symptoms of Alzheimer’s appear.
Lopera and his colleagues want to determine how tau spreads through the brains of young people with Alzheimer’s, and whether that pattern mirrors the distribution of tau seen in elderly people with the disease. They hope to compare their results with data from two clinical trials of anti-amyloid drugs in the United States that have begun scanning participants’ brains for tau.
Read full, original post: Pioneering Alzheimer’s study in Colombia zeroes in on enigmatic protein