Mutated Tau Proteins and Neurodegeneration


>>Narrator: The human brain contains over 100 billion neurons. These neurons are some of
the longest-lived cells in the human body, each one connected to upwards of 10,000 others. Seamless communication
between these neurons allows the nervous system to carry
out a multitude of functions. At the neuron’s nucleus, an
individual’s genetic information is processed and stored
in the form of DNA. A structure called the
nuclear pore complex allows for proteins, RNA, and
other small molecules to pass from the nucleus to the rest of the cell, and back again. This process is a crucial component of most living cells,
including our nervous system. Without a healthy, functioning
nuclear pore complex, traffic jams build up in the cell, which may make people susceptible to neurodegenerative conditions
like Huntington’s disease, ALS, Parkinson’s, or others. Scientists have recently identified a link between certain mutated proteins, and dysfunction at the
nuclear pore complex. One particular protein, called Tau, has been identified
accumulating in the brains of individuals with
Alzheimer’s, and it’s suspected to cause traffic jams or blockages between the nucleus and
the rest of the cell. Researchers found that in the presence of a mutated version of the Tau protein, the nuclear pores become
physically disrupted, fewer in number, and pieces
coalesce with each other. The hope is that scientists
can address the root cause behind the damaged nuclear pores, or find a way to stabilize them. This may help researchers
to develop treatments which allow the cell to function normally, restoring the flow of traffic
in and out of the nucleus, ultimately treating the disease. (peaceful, ethereal music)