Synapses are the key to understanding how Alzheimer’s disease affects the brain, according to a new study. Synapses are the junctions that allow communication between brain cells.
They also carry toxic proteins called tau, which accumulate in the brain cells of Alzheimer’s patients and impair their function.
The study, led by researchers from the University of Edinburgh, used advanced microscopy techniques to analyse over a million synapses from 42 human brains.
They found that synapses contained small aggregates of tau, called tau oligomers, which were present in the brains of people who died of Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers also observed that tau oligomers could transfer from one side of the synapse to the other, spreading the toxicity throughout the brain.
This suggests that targeting tau oligomers at synapses could be a potential way to slow down or prevent Alzheimer’s disease in the future.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most prevalent form of dementia, affecting around 900,000 people in the UK. This number is expected to increase to nearly 1.6 million by 2040. The disease causes severe memory loss and has no cure.