Tau-based biomarker tracks Alzheimer’s progression

July 13, 2023
Novel marker found in cerebrospinal fluid also could speed development of Alzheimer’s drugs.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Lund University in Lund, Sweden, have identified a form of tau that could serve as a marker to track Alzheimer’s progression. The marker also could be used by Alzheimer’s drug developers to assess whether investigational tau-based drugs – the next frontier in Alzheimer’s drug development – are effective against the disease. Such drugs theoretically would benefit people in later stages of the disease, when tau tangles play a crucial role.

By studying 667 people in Sweden and the U.S. at various stages of Alzheimer’s disease, the researchers discovered in the cerebrospinal fluid that levels of a specific form of tau — known as microtubule binding region (MTBR)-tau243 — track with the amount of damaging tau tangles in the brain and with the degree of cognitive decline.

The findings, published July 13 in Nature Medicine, are a major step toward a better approach to diagnosing and staging Alzheimer’s disease. A test based on MTBR-tau243 could speed up drug development by providing a relatively simple and inexpensive way to identify and monitor participants in clinical trials and assess whether the experimental therapies, including tau-based drugs, can change the course of the disease.

WUSTL release on Newswise