As per the Alzheimer’s Association, approximately 5.3 million people in the United States are suffering from this disease. It is said to be the seventh top cause of death among elderly people. This disease is believed to the most general kind of dementia and may soon develop into America’s most pricey health care burden.

A team of experts at UMass Lowell seem to have discovered a new system by which a vital protein linked to Alzheimer’s disease may transmit within the human brain. The study headed by UMass Lowell biological sciences professor Garth Hall, apparently provides new hope that the disease may one day be cured. It could offer a new clarification of how the protein tau, a standard human protein that turns toxic in Alzheimer’s patients, probably materializes in their cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).

Until lately, it was said to be generally understood by scientists that tau is never leaked from or shifted between neurons, and that CSF-tau only surfaces after several neurons have expired and permanent harm appears to have done to the brain.

Hall commented, “My team has discovered two different ways in which tau is secreted by neurons, or brain cells. This might explain how tau-containing lesions seem to propagate between adjacent, interconnected parts of the brain during the development of the disease.”

Hall remarked, “That tau secretion can occur via two distinct mechanisms strongly indicates that it is biologically ‘real’ and is not just tau protein leaking out of dead neurons. The fact that it occurs in a pattern that reproduces what is seen in the CSF of Alzheimer’s patients holds out hope that patients in early stages of the disease might someday be cured. If we can distinguish secreted tau from tau that is released from dying neurons in CSF samples, then maybe we can diagnose Alzheimer’s in time to stop the disease before the neurons die.”

Hall, along with graduate student WonHee Kim and UMass Lowell, has apparently filed a interim patent application in association with a new approach to the early detection of Alzheimer’s that is based on their studies of tau secretion.

The study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.