Tau, an Alzheimer's-associated protein, creates an effect of protection against the most aggressive brain tumors.
A team of Spanish scientists has discovered a protein (tau), the main suspect in causing Alzheimer's, that has a protective effect capable of slowing the development of brain cancer or glioma, Spanish Newspaper El Pais reports.
This discovery could clarify a process that is barely known and which determines whether a person with brain cancer will survive or not; because it’s still a mystery why and how a glioma of low aggressiveness is transformed into another of high lethality.
"In gliomas the tau protein has a protective factor, the more protein, the less tumor proliferation," Jesús Ávila, a researcher at the Severo Ochoa Molecular Biology Center (CBMSO-CSIC) and co-author of the study, explains.
The experts support the thesis that the tumor's ability to generate new aberrant blood vessels to obtain nutrients is essential for glioma to become more aggressive. Researchers have shown that tau protein is present in less aggressive gliomas. When the amount of this protein decreases, tumors tend to throw more blood vessels and become more aggressive.
The study opens a new way to seek a new treatment, although years of research will still be needed, but in the short term, it provides important basic knowledge. However, investigators have clarified that tau protein strengthens the microtubules, which are part of the skeleton of the cells. One of the first things cancer does to proliferate is to weaken that skeleton, which in turn makes it easier for a cell to start generating replicas through a process of division called mitosis.
"We believe that tau is a key between Alzheimer's and cancer," Ricardo Gargini, CBMSO and Carlos III Health Institute researcher and lead author of the work, summarize.
One of the goals of science now is to understand if that key also works in reverse and can offer hope in this neurodegenerative disease.
According to the World Health Organization, around 50 million people worldwide suffer from dementia and other neurodegenerative deceases, of which about 60% live in low and middle-income countries. Each year about 10 million new cases are registered.
The total number of people with dementia is expected to reach 82 million in 2030 and 152 million in 2050. Much of that increase can be attributed to the fact that in the low and middle-income countries the number of people with dementia will tend to increase.