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Archive - May 23, 2009

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Specific Extra Phosphate on Tau Protein Crucial to Alzheimer’s Disease

Scientists have shown that a particular one of the multiple extra phosphates on the abnormal tau protein in Alzheimer’s disease appears to be a principal cause of the disease. "The impact of this study is twofold," said Dr. Hemant Paudel, the senior author of the study. "We can now do brain imaging at the earliest stages of the disease. We don't have to look for many different tau phosphates, just this single phosphate. The possibility of early diagnosis now exists. Second, the enzyme which puts this phosphate on the tau can be targeted by drugs, so therapies can be developed. This discovery gives us, for the first time, a clear direction towards the early diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer's." Several years ago, it was discovered that tau proteins in normal brains contain only three to four attached phosphates, while abnormal tau proteins in Alzheimer's patients have anywhere from 21 to 25 additional phosphates. Here, Dr. Paudel and his team have shown that the addition of a single phosphate to the serine 202 amino acid within the tau protein is a likely principal culprit in Alzheimer's disease. This work was published in the May 15 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry. [Press release] [JBC abstract]