Malfunction of a key brain protein called tau is the likely culprit behind Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, a new study in mice concludes. Neurons — highly specialized nerve cells in the brain — appear to die when tau malfunctions and fails to clear the cells of unwanted and toxic proteins, explained Charbel Moussa, head of the Laboratory for Dementia and Parkinsonism at Georgetown University School of Medicine, in Washington, D.C. This means drugs that replace the function of tau in these brain cells are likely to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, he said.

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