For years they were flukes of the Alzheimer’s world: elderly people who died at an advanced age and, according to postmortem examinations, with brains chock-full of amyloid plaques and tau tangles, the protein fragments whose presence in the brain is the hallmark of the disease. Yet these brains were off-script. Although Alzheimer’s orthodoxy says these sticky protein clumps between and inside nerve cells destroy synapses and kill neurons, causing memory loss and cognitive decline, these individuals thought and remembered as well as their amyloid- and tau-free peers.

Because so few people donate their brain to science, it was never certain how many died with the hallmark of Alzheimer’s but never developed the disease. And there were always suspicions that maybe these seemingly resilient people did have at least mild Alzheimer’s, or would have developed it eventually; since they were no longer alive to test and track, that couldn’t be ruled out.

Unlock this article by subscribing to STAT Plus and enjoy your first 30 days free!

GET STARTED

What is it?

STAT Plus is STAT's premium subscription service for in-depth biotech, pharma, policy, and life science coverage and analysis. Our award-winning team covers news on Wall Street, policy developments in Washington, early science breakthroughs and clinical trial results, and health care disruption in Silicon Valley and beyond.

What's included?

  • Daily reporting and analysis
  • The most comprehensive industry coverage from a powerhouse team of reporters
  • Subscriber-only newsletters
  • Daily newsletters to brief you on the most important industry news of the day
  • Online intelligence briefings
  • Frequent opportunities to engage with veteran beat reporters and industry experts
  • Exclusive industry events
  • Premium access to subscriber-only networking events around the country
  • The best reporters in the industry
  • The most trusted and well-connected newsroom in the health care industry
  • And much more
  • Exclusive interviews with industry leaders, profiles, and premium tools, like our CRISPR Trackr.
  • I’ve heard of cognitively normal elderly dying with brains full of plaques ever since I began learning about AD, but I’ve never heard of cognitively normal with brains full of tau. Are you sure about that? One of the strengths of the tau hypothesis is that neurofibrillary tangles (which are composed of tau protein) closely track dementia, while amyloid plaques do not.

Comments are closed.

A roundup of STAT’s top stories of the day in science and medicine

Privacy Policy