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The role of tau protein in olfactory processes

The structural protein tau is implicated in a number of debilitating neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease (PD).

Aims

In this study, we will examine the olfactory phenotype of mice deficient in tau, including behavioural examinations (odour detection, discrimination and memory) and protein biochemistry of the olfactory bulb.

Recent literature suggest that mice deficient in tau share some similarities with PD, and indeed our laboratory’s investigations indicate that loss of tau protein increases the level of insoluble, aggregated alpha-synuclein (α-syn) in the brain. This protein is implicated in PD as a genetic cause, risk factor and the primary constituent of Lewy bodies, a histopathological hallmark of PD that spreads across the brain with disease progression. In addition to the characteristic, devastating impairments in the locomotor system, one of the earliest symptoms of PD is an impairment in the sense of smell (olfaction), which may be an early predictor of PD. The project may be expanded to include examination of olfaction and biochemistry in a tau transgenic overexpression mouse line. Skills gained will include behavioural testing in mice and Western blotting techniques.

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