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New Strategy Identified for Preventing Acute and Chronic Brain Disease

prevented when one or both copies of the tau gene were eliminated.

Tau is made normally by brain cells and regulates the stability of their internal skeleton. In AD, tau is altered in a way that makes it aggregate into clumps, called tangles. A lot of effort has been devoted to finding ways to specifically eliminate these abnormal forms of tau, but this has been difficult. The current study suggests that lowering overall tau levels may be a good alterative, especially since even partial tau reduction was effective and very well tolerated, at least in the mice.

A breakthrough came when the researchers identified a mechanism by which tau reduction could protect the brain. They found that tau reduction protects brain cells against overstimulation, which can interfere with the brain's normal functioning and even cause seizures. Indeed, mice with reduced levels of tau were also resistant against epileptic seizures.

"This connection between tau and neuronal overexcitation was really unexpected," said Dr. Roberson. "It opens up totally new ways of thinking about tau and its involvement in neurological disease."

Because overstimulation of brain cells contributes to a variety of major neurological diseases, these findings may have broad therapeutic implications.

"We still have hurdles to cross before this discovery is translated into something that is ready for patients," said Dr. Mucke. "But there is an urgent need for better treatments in this field, so it is really exciting to have identified such a promising approach."


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