Neurofibrillary tangles

Image Caption : Tangles Inside Brain Cells : Alzheimer's is not thought to be caused by amyloid alone. Experts say that the amyloid buildup has an accomplice in another compound that interferes with nerve function-neurofibrillary tangles. The long axons that extend from a nerve's cell body to connect with other neurons maintain their shape thanks to internal structures known as microtubules. As Alzheimer's progresses, however, the tight structure of these microtubules starts to fall apart. A normal component of nerve cells, a protein called tau, undergoes pathologic changes which are associated with neurofibrillary tangle formation. These neurofibrillary tangles accumulate in the neuron's cell body and, combined with growing deposits of amyloid plaques, start to disrupt the function of nerve cells. These cells eventually die, leading to loss of essential brain functions.

1. As Alzheimer's progresses the tight structure of these microtubules starts to fall apart

2. Tau proteins form filaments which travel to the neuron body

3. Unhealthy neurons packed with tangles cannot communicate with other neurons and eventually die

Neurofibrillary Tangles

Neurofibrillary tangles-bundles of twisted filaments found in nerve cells in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease. These tangles are largely made up of a protein called tau.

Neurofibrillary Tangles

Abnormal structures located in various parts of the brain and composed of dense arrays of paired helical filaments (neurofilaments and microtubules). These double helical stacks of transverse subunits are twisted into left-handed ribbon-like filaments that likely incorporate the following proteins: (1) the intermediate filaments: medium- and high-molecular-weight neurofilaments; (2) the microtubule-associated proteins map-2 and tau; (3) actin; and (4) UBIQUITINS. As one of the hallmarks of ALZHEIMER DISEASE, the neurofibrillary tangles eventually occupy the whole of the cytoplasm in certain classes of cell in the neocortex, hippocampus, brain stem, and diencephalon. The number of these tangles, as seen in post mortem histology, correlates with the degree of dementia during life. Some studies suggest that tangle antigens leak into the systemic circulation both in the course of normal aging and in cases of Alzheimer disease.

National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine

National Institute on Aging / NIH

Neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) are aggregates of hyperphosphorylated tau protein that are most commonly known as a primary marker of Alzheimer's disease. Their presence is also found in numerous other diseases known as tauopathies. Little is known about their exact relationship to the different pathologies.

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