Tau, a protein already linked to Alzheimer’s disease, can be traced in greater concentrations in the blood plasma levels of under-age children with early onset psychosis (EOP), according to a recent study.
The findings of the research team, led by Dr. Mathias Lundberg and Dr. Neil Cleland of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, demonstrate that EOP patients who are younger than 18 have more secreted tau protein in their blood.
The investigators hypothesized that EOP-related cognitive loss due to neurodegeneration can be correlated with changes in the plasma levels of tau, elevating tau as a biomarker — as it is in Alzheimer’s disease and traumatic brain injury. In their analysis, they looked for both forms of circulating tau (total, t-tau, and cleaved by caspases, c-tau).
The research team collected blood from 20 patients and 20 healthy individuals. After isolating the plasma they measured the t-tau and c-tau concentrations. Their results demonstrated that c-tau concentrations were higher in EOP patients when compared with those from the healthy group (2150 pg/ml and 1100 pg/ml, respectively). No statistical differences of t-tau were observed.
Looking into this correlation could help researchers understand the mechanisms behind psychotic disorders that manifest during teen years. Scientists have yet to pinpoint the cause of many of these conditions – such as early onset of schizophrenia and affective non-schizophrenia psychotic disorders – which can be accompanied with diminished neurological capacities.
“This finding suggests that tau protein metabolism may be altered in EOP. The results may have implications for the understanding of the pathophysiology of EOP and for new treatment strategies,” the study’s authors wrote.