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2011 Grants - Fa
Memory Impairment by Soluble Oligomeric Tau
Mauro Fa, Ph.D.
Columbia University Medical Center
New York, New York
2011 Investigator-Initiated Research Grant
Tau is a protein found inside nerve cells that is important for maintaining cell structure. In Alzheimer's disease, however, tau becomes abnormal and forms neurofibrillary tangles, one of the characteristic features of Alzheimer's pathology. Another feature of Alzheimer's disease is dysfunction of synapses, specialized regions of nerve cells responsible for sending rapid signals through the brain and which are important for learning and memory.
For several years, scientists have thought that synaptic dysfunction in Alzheimer's disease may be caused by beta-amyloid, a protein fragment involved in the formation of amyloid plaques. Recently, however, Mauro Fa, Ph.D. and colleagues have found preliminary evidence that abnormal tau that clumps into small aggregates (oligomeric tau) may contribute to synaptic dysfunction.
Dr. Fa and colleagues plan to extend their studies to examine the role of oligomeric tau in causing synaptic dysfunction. They have proposed to study how oligomeric tau affects synaptic transmission in the brain, and how this effect leads to changes in memory function. The researchers hope to extend these studies to identify the molecular mechanisms by which oligomeric tau impairs synaptic function. These studies may identify new targets for the development of drugs to prevent synaptic dysfunction and memory impairment in persons with Alzheimer's disease and related disorders.