Scientists at the University of Texas have implicated a type of cellular stress for the first time as a player in Alzheimer's disease. And their discovery could lead to treatments for more than 20 human brain diseases including Alzheimer's and traumatic brain injury. One author of the study went as far as to say the treatment that researchers used on mice to rid them of the stressed cells actually stopped Alzheimer's disease "in its tracks."
According to Forbes, researchers at the The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, now called UT Health San Antonio® established a link between tau tangles and the stressed or senescent cells they found in Alzheimer's-diseased tissue. Senescence is the process by which cells irreversibly stop dividing or growing without actually dying. Already proven to be involved in cancer and aging, tau protein accumulation is known to exist in 20 human brain diseases. “Tau protein accumulation is the most common pathology among degenerative brain diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), traumatic brain injury (TBI) and over twenty others,” the research paper notes.
Senescent cells are stressed. They are toxic. But they don’t die. They are, in effect, zombie cells. And what’s worse, these senescent cells accumulate in tissues and may contribute to tissue damage, inflammation and the development of various age-related and chronic diseases. The scientists at UT Health used senolytic drugs (agents that selectively destroy senescent cells or induce cell death) to clear the senescent cells and tau tangles in Alzheimer's mice. In the end, their experiment improved both brain function and structure.