Memory problems associated with Alzheimer’s disease may one day be reversed with targeted immunotherapy, according to a new study appearing in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston had previously found that anti-tau oligomer immunotherapy reduced levels of toxic tau oligomers and reversed memory deficits in an animal model of Alzheimer’s disease. In the current research of passive immunotherapy with tau oligomer-specific monoclonal antibody, the removal of tau oligomers also reversed memory deficits and accelerated plaque deposition in the brains of mice.

Unlike other tau immunotherapy treatments, this one only targeted the toxic oligomer form of tau, leaving the normal tau to carry out typical functions. However, amyloid beta oligomer levels were also reduced with the immunotherapy, which indicates that the effects of amyloid beta may also be dependent on the presence of toxic forms of tau.

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“Our findings with this immunotherapy study indicate a link between tau oligomers and amyloid beta,” lead author and associate professor of neurology, Rakez Kayed, PhD, said in a statement. “Because of this relationship, removing tau oligomers with our immunotherapy may also decrease the harmful effects amyloid beta and mitigate memory deficits.” 

These results support the targeting of tau oligomers with immunotherapy as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. The removal of tau oligomers with immunotherapy could also decrease the harmful effects of amyloid beta and mediate memory problems.


Kayed R, et al. Tau Immunotherapy Modulates Both Pathological Tau and Upstream Amyloid Pathology in an Alzheimer’s Disease Mouse Model. J Neurosci. 2015; 35(12): 4857-4868.

This article originally appeared on MPR