10 Sep Tau protein found in Alzheimer’s disease linked to excessive daytime somnolence.
There has been a lot of research in both areas of sleep related issues and Alzheimer’s disease but recent research conducted by Oh et al. has provided a link that could potentially be an early warning sign of the disease.
This research has focused on three key brain regions that are responsible for the sleep cycle, specifically the region impacted by narcolepsy, and the damaging effects of Alzheimer’s disease. These regions being the locus coeruleus (LC), lateral hypothalamic area (LHA), and the tuberomammillary nucleos (TMN). The focus of the research was on a damaging protein named “tau” and how it targets these areas and leads to poorer sleep quality through the night and the need to nap through the day to cater for this excessive tiredness.
Researchers compared these brain regions in 13 deceased Alzheimer’s patients and 7 healthy control subjects and found that these regions in the deceased Alzheimer’s patients had a build-up of this tau protein and had lost as many as 75% of their neurons.
Oh et al. also looked at brain samples from 7 patients with progressive supanuclear palsy (PSP) and corticobasal disease (CBD), two forms of neurodegenerative dementia also caused by tau protein accumulation, they found that the wakefulness promoting neurons were unaffected despite showing similar levels of tau build-up demonstrating that those with Alzheimer’s are more susceptible to sleep related issues.
This new research lines up with prior research conducted by Gringberg et al. that showed those who died of Alzheimer’s disease and had increased amounts of the tau protein in their brainstem had begun experiencing mood changes, anxiety, depression, and an increase amount of sleep disturbances. Further research conducted by Grinberg et al. shows a strong connection between tau protein build-up in regions causing other impairments related to Alzheimer’s, eg. build-up in memory processing regions for those with memory issues, etc.
The importance of the research is predominantly identifying Alzheimer’s earlier and treating the disease but specifically related to sleep, being able to improve the sleep quality by targeting tau protein specifically in diagnosed Alzheimer’s patients.