Jul 5, 2017

A snapshot of Alzheimer's

In this image of neurons, tau proteins are stained red (Gerry Shaw / Wikipedia)

Scientists have taken detailed images of one of the proteins involved in Alzheimers Disease for the first time, which may help researchers create treatments for the disease.

Alzheimers is characterized by a buildup of two proteins, tau proteins inside of neurons and amyloid plaques on the outside. Healthy tau proteins look sort of like fiber-optic cables that help support neurons. But sometimes, those proteins become tangled, and the tangles can build up and warp the neuron's shape, rendering them useless.

Why it matters: Tau tangles have been implicated in a number of neuro-degenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's, Huntington's and Parkinson's Disease. These detailed images allow scientists to parse apart the molecular structure of the tangles, which could help them understand why the tangles happen, how they spread, and possibly even develop drugs to treat them.

What they did: The scientists, working at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK, and the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis used a technique called cryo-electron microcopy or cryo-EM to image tau tangles from the brain of a 86-year-old woman who died while ill with Alzheimer's. Their paper was published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

Electron micrograph of tau filaments. Two different types of filaments are flagged with blue and green arrows.Fitzpatrick et al 2017

Slow down: It still isn't clear if tau tangles, amyloid plaques or something else cause Alzheimer's. Some research suggests that the two work together, while other studies suggest that amyloids could be red herrings. Even if treating tau proteins helps treat Alzheimers, it could be decades before any tau-targeting treatments hit the market. Still, this molecular understanding is a big step.

What's next: The researchers hope that by imaging tau proteins in other diseases, they'll be able to see if they form similarly or differently than Alzheimer's tau tangles.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 665,164 — Total deaths: 30,852 — Total recoveries: 140,225.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 124,665 — Total deaths: 2,191 — Total recoveries: 1,095.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump announces new travel advisories for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, but rules out quarantine enforcement. Per the CDC, residents of those states must now "refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days," with the exception of critical infrastructure industry workers.
  4. State updates: Alaska is latest state to issue a stay-at-home order — New York is trying to nearly triple its hospital capacity in less than a month and has moved its presidential primary to June 23. Some Midwestern swing voters who backed Trump's handling of the virus less than two weeks ago are balking at his call for the U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter.
  5. World updates: In Spain, over 1,400 people were confirmed dead between Thursday to Saturday.
  6. 🚀 Space updates: OneWeb filed for bankruptcy amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  7. Hollywood: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have returned to U.S. after being treated for coronavirus.
  8. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Coronavirus updates: Global death toll tops 30,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The novel coronavirus has now killed more than 30,000 people around the world — with Italy reporting over 10,000 deaths, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: The number of deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. surpassed 2,000 on Saturday. The United States leads the world in confirmed coronavirus infections — more than 124,000 by early Sunday. The number of those recovered from the virus in the U.S. passed the 1,000-mark on Saturday evening.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health

Gilead expands access to experimental coronavirus drug in emergency cases

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Gilead Sciences CEO Daniel O’Day said in an open letter Saturday the company is expanding access to its experimental anti-coronavirus drug remdesivir to include severely ill COVID-19 patients.

The big pig picture: President Trump has called the antiviral drug "promising," but the results of six clinical trials on this investigational medicine are still being conducted, so its effectiveness the treatment of the novel coronavirus has yet to be proved. The World Health Organization is involved in the tests.

Go deeperArrow3 hours ago - Health