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A study led by the Oxford Parkinson’s Disease Centre’s (OPDC) Dr Nora Bengoa-Vergniory has shown that a novel assay termed the tau-proximity ligation assay is able to recognise Alzheimer’s disease before current detection methods.

Early Alzheimer’s pathology detected by the tau-proximity ligation assay

A team of researchers has shown that the novel tau-proximity ligation assay is able to detect pathology in Alzheimer’s disease before classical pathology in the form of tau tangles shows in the brain. The new assay works by detecting tau molecules that are close together.

Aggregation is a key event in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Since aggregation can happen ahead of phosphorylation, which is the current golden standard for the detection of pathology, we decided to develop this assay to target aggregation and examine whether this would reveal any differences when compared to current detection methods.

Our technique was able to exclusively detect early tau aggregates ahead of classic pathology and in previously unrecognised regions of the brain, offering a lot of insights for Alzheimer’s.

The research was led by the OPDC at the University of Oxford and Imperial College London, created through funding from Alzheimer’s Research UK, and supported by the Medical Research Council with collaborators from the University of Southampton.

Lead researcher Dr Nora Bengoa-Vergniory said “detecting early pathology is essential in order to understand how the disease progresses and therefore to develop therapies targeting pathology and its spread. We currently have no disease modifying therapies for Alzheimer’s disease and these insights may help to determine optimal targets for developing future disease modifying treatments”.

The research paper, “Tau-proximity ligation assay reveals extensive previously undetected pathology prior to neurofibrillary tangles in preclinical Alzheimer's disease” is published in Acta Neuropathologica Communications.