Alzheimers-Related “Primary Age-related Tauopathy” Memory Disorder Discovered

Ana de Barros, PhD avatar

by Ana de Barros, PhD |

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shutterstock_118341778In a research article entitled “Primary age-related tauopathy (PART): a common pathology associated with human aging,” recently published in the Acta Neuropathologica, researchers uncovered new insights into an Alzheimers-related memory disorder.

This multi-institutional study, co-led by Peter T. Nelson, MD, PhD, of the University of Kentucky’s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, and John F. Crary, MD, PhD, of Columbia University Medical Center, has defined and established criteria for a new neurological disease closely resembling Alzheimer’s disease called “primary age-related tauopathy “(PART).

PART is a pathologic continuum ranging from focally distributed neurofibrillary tangles (NTF’s) observed in cognitively normal aged individuals, through the pathology observed in persons with dementing illnesses that have been referred to as “tangle-predominant senile dementia” (TPSD), “tangle-only dementia”, among other nomenclatures. The assumption behind this new terminology proposal is to achieve a consensual conceptual framework to facilitate communication between the scientific and medical community.

The study establishes PART as primary tauopathy, directly caused by the tau protein in tangles. Many of the neurofibrillary tangles in Alzheimer’s are thought to arise secondarily to amyloid or some other stimuli. The researchers propose that individuals who have tangles resembling those found in Alzheimer’s but have no detectable amyloid plaques should be diagnosed as having PART.

PART patients may have confounded clinical trials of amyloid-targeting drugs for Alzheimer’s disease as these treatments are unlikely to be effective against tangles researchers expect that the study of tau biomarkers will broaden the recognition of PART and improve comprehension of a condition currently know mostly only from neuropathological studies.

The team concluded that more studies are crucial to understand the pathogenesis of the disease, its relation to other neurodegenerative disorders and the full clinical spectrum of this age-related brain disorder, in order for patients to receive appropriate treatment.

In a press release, Peter Nelson stated “Until now, PART has been difficult to treat or even study because of lack of well-defined criteria.” Furthermore he added “Now that the scientific community has come to a consensus on what the key features of PART are, this will help doctors diagnose different forms of memory impairment early. These advancements will have a big impact on our ability to recognize and develop effective treatments for brain diseases seen in older persons.”