ARH Scholar Dr Natasha Krishnadas has recently completed a PhD, revealing new insights that could prevent neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s, from emerging.
In 2022, over a quarter of a million Australians were estimated to be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Accounting for about two thirds of dementia cases, Alzheimer’s is the most common and most fatal form of dementia. Though it is so common, the incurable disease is difficult to diagnose due to its immense variation of symptoms.
Dr Krishnadas from the University of Melbourne received the Bartolina Peluso Scholarship in 2020 to conduct a series of studies that examined brain proteins responsible for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease. The studies used a brain imaging tool known as Positron Emission Tomography (PET) to assess brain proteins known as ‘amyloid-beta’ and ‘tau’ in 276 live participants. Toxic clumps of these proteins deposit in the brain in many neurodegenerative disorders.
The studies reported that toxic tau deposits accumulate in the brain during the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease, even before the development of common symptoms like memory loss. These findings may assist in clinical trials that test drugs aiming to reduce or slow the accumulation of tau.
The studies were also able to identify specific patterns of tau deposition in the brain, such that they would be able to predict the types of symptoms an individual with Alzheimer’s may experience. This may support diagnosis of individuals susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease.
“Imaging toxic tau deposits using brain PET scans improves our understanding of how differences in the pattern of tau deposition can relate to differences in the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease that individuals experience,” said Dr Krishnadas.
“The ability to detect the accumulation of tau deposits years before symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease emerge … is important for drug trials that are aiming to remove or slow the accumulation of tau and for measuring the effectiveness of the treatment.”
These findings were published in the journal, Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring. Read the full article here.
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First published 5th December 2022