Amyloid beta, the waxy protein that litters the brains of Alzheimer's patients, is like a criminal with many arrests but no convictions. Studies have implicated amyloid plaques in the disease, but nobody has proved that they cause it.
Now, scientists working with mice report that antibodies tailor-made to attack amyloid can wipe it out and reverse an experimental version of Alzheimer's disease if the intervention begins early enough. What's more, removing amyloid rubbed out its partner in crime, a protein called tau that collects in tangles inside brain cells. The work appears in the Aug. 5 Neuron.
This study "provides the strongest experimental evidence to date" that amyloid is the ringleader of Alzheimer's disease, says coauthor Frank M. LaFerla, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Irvine. LaFerla suspects that amyloid collaborates with tau to kill neurons and trigger the confusion and memory loss that mark the disease.