After decades of dead-ends and frustration, researchers are finally looking in a new direction for the cause of Alzheimer's.

A new study by the Mayo Clinic published in Brain, points to Tau Protein—not Amyloid (the agent long thought to be the cause of Alzheimer's) as the primary driver of the disease.

For more than a decade, JDFAF's Chief Medical Officer, Bruce Miller, MD has been a pioneer in exploring Tau as the cause of Alzheimer's.  Dr. Miller who heads the UCSF Memory and Aging Center is also a founder of the Tau Consortium, an international group of clinical and basic scientists who work together with a sense of urgency to understand, treat, and cure tau-related disorders.

In the new study, researchers at Mayo Clinic’s campuses in Jacksonville, Florida, and Rochester, Minnesota studied 3,600 postmortem brains and found that the progression of dysfunctional tau protein drives the cognitive decline and memory loss seen in Alzheimer’s disease, not Amyloid, as previously thought.  Amyloid is another toxic protein that characterizes Alzheimer’s which builds-up as dementia progresses, but the researchers have concluded that it is not the primary cause.

“The majority of the Alzheimer’s research field has really focused on amyloid over the last 25 years,” says Melissa Murray, PhD, the chief investigator of the study. “Initially, patients who were discovered to have mutations or changes in the amyloid gene were found to have severe Alzheimer’s pathology — particularly in increased levels of amyloid. Brain scans performed over the last decade revealed that amyloid accumulated as people progressed, so most Alzheimer’s models were based on amyloid toxicity. In this way, the Alzheimer’s field became myopic.”

Based on the study, Dr. Murray concludes that halting toxic tau should be a new focus for Alzheimer’s treatment.

Read the full report on the Mayo Clinic Website.