This Molecule May Stop the Toxic Spread of Tau Proteins

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that appears to “spread” throughout the brain.

In order to combat neurodegeneration, researchers have looked at a wide range of possible remedies. Most recently, a compound known as cambinol has shown immense promise.

Being able to halt the spread of tau (a toxic brain protein associated with Alzheimer’s), this compound may lead to a future treatment option.

Tau Is Normal But Tangles Are Not

Although the word “tau” is often used when describing the effects of Alzheimer’s, this protein is also found in normal mature brains. In healthy subjects, this protein helps maintain the brain’s transport system. However, while looking at an Alzheimer’s brain, tau proteins reach abnormal levels. In turn, structures known as tangles form.

Tangles are found inside dying cells and are made up of twisted tau fibers. As these strands become twisted, they block the brain’s critical pathways in terms of nutrients and other essential molecules. With age, most people will develop some tangles (as well as plaques). However, those with Alzheimer’s develop significantly more.

The pattern in which they form is also unique. At first, they begin to develop in brain areas responsible for learning and memory. Researchers have found that these tangles then spread to other brain regions.

Have Researchers Found a Solution?

Researchers from the University of California may have found a way to stop the spread of harmful tangles. This new study, published in Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, found that a molecule called cambinol stops these tangles from spreading.

Upon observing the behavior of tau in cell cultures (in vitro) and again in mice models (in vivo), it was found that cambinol appeared to block an enzyme known as nSMase2. This is significant because this enzyme is required to product tau-carrying vesicles.

Both experiments showcase thsame results

What is so promising about this study, is that these results were replicated in different experiments. In one experiment, the researchers collected tau-carrying cells from the postmortem brains of Alzheimer’s patients. They then mixed these cells with cells that were tau-free.

When cells were not treated with cambinol, tau continued to spread. In comparison, healthy cells that did receive the cambinol treatment were not contaminated by the effects of tau.

In the second experiment, the same effect was observed, except this time the results were particularly promising. That is because when mice were treated with cambinol, the activity of nSMase2 was reduced. This further supported the researchers’ theory.

This study helped researchers better understand the cellular pathways involved, which is the first step to new treatment options.

More on Tau and Amyloid-Beta

As mentioned, tau proteins are those that clump and form tangles inside cells. In contrast, plaques (which are made of amyloid-beta) are found outside of cells. Both are believed to play a key role in the formation and progression of Alzheimer’s.

Although researchers continue to explore the beneficial effects of various drugs and compounds, it is believed that you can intervene today. In 2016, for the first time, researchers found that exercise and a good diet did reduce the build-up of these sticky proteins.

In this study, 44 adults were recruited between the ages of 40 and 85. These subjects were suffering from mild memory changes at the beginning of the study. They then underwent a brain scan to determine the level of plaques and tangles present. Data was also collected regarding diet, body mass index, and levels of physical activity.

What they found, was that all three of these variables (a healthy body mass index, a Mediterranean diet, and increased physical activity) lowered levels of plaques and tangles by between 1-3 percent. The researchers stated that was enough to delay the onset of dementia.

Top Tips to Protect Your Neural Health

  • Consume more brain-healthy foods, including blueberries, bone broth, dark chocolate, beets, fish, avocados, broccoli, and blueberries. Basically, consume a clean whole food diet.
  • If you are currently inactive, walk at least four times weekly for 30 minutes. In turn, this will help you improve your cardiovascular health. Improving your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels is imperative — especially if you are currently overweight.
  • Remain aware. Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, an early diagnosis can improve one’s prognosis and quality of life. That is why we recommend the BrainTest® app, as it can help you detect early warning signs of cognitive decline.


Krista Hillis has a B.A.Sc degree, specializing in neuroscience and psychology. She is actively involved in the mental health and caregiving community, aiming to help others. Krista is also passionate about nutrition and the ways in which lifestyle choices affect and influence the human brain.

Comments (4)
  1. Mark A Mace

    I am very worried about my brain is losing short term memory, but does not seem to lose long term memory with the same impact or amount. What does your findings have for this problem?

    1. Krista Hillis


      There are many variables to consider when experiencing short-term memory loss. Are you experiencing any other symptoms? There are dozens of conditions that can cause short-term memory loss but not long-term memory loss. This is why we recommend that you speak with a medical professional so that they can better assess your current condition.

    1. Krista Hillis


      If you are experiencing short-term memory loss, it is important that you seek a medical opinion. This symptom can be caused by a wide range of conditions or environmental variables, including the use of certain medications, sleep deprivation, or even significant stress. We recommended that you give our BrainTest app a try as it can help screen for early signs of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. We also recommend that you see a physician as soon as possible to address your concerns!

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