Superoxide dismutase or SOD1, an antioxidant that protects the brain and improves cognition, is also associated with deterioration in areas of the brain that are susceptible to Alzheimer's disease. An Iowa State University research team found SOD1’s protective benefits dramatically weaken when levels of tau proteins – a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease – increase. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Antioxidant SOD1 puts up fight, loses battle against toxic tau protein linked to Alzheimer’s disease

A team of Iowa State University researchers is the first to identify the correlation between the antioxidant superoxide dismutase, or SOD1, with tau proteins in brains with Alzheimer's disease. The team's new research may explain why SOD1, which protects the brain, is also associated with deterioration in areas susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease.

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Food science and human nutrition researchers Kelsey McLimans, Bridget Clark, and Auriel Willette were on the team that first identified the correlation between SOD1 and tau proteins in people with varying degrees of Alzheimer’s disease.

Until now, it was unknown how SOD1 related to cognition and biomarkers in the brain and cerebrospinal fluid for adults living with the disease. 

The findings suggest the disease may begin or progress in part because a brain stops working effectively when tau levels increase and eventually negate the protection provided by antioxidants.

The study is published online by the journal Antioxidants & Redox Signaling.

See the complete ISU News Service story.