UTMB researchers have uncovered what may be a key molecular mechanism behind the lasting damage done by traumatic brain injury. The discovery centers on tau, which has also been associated with Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative conditions. “Although people have given some attention to the formation of neurofibrillary tangles after traumatic brain injury, we were the first to look at tau oligomers, because we have an antibody that allows us to separate them out and see how much of the total tau is the toxic species,” said Bridget Hawkins, lead author of the study now online in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. “We saw that it's a substantial amount — enough to play an important role in the effects of traumatic brain injury.” UTMB associate professor Rakez Kayed, the senior author on the paper, said, “This is a new approach — we're starting by targeting them in animals — but we hope to eventually humanize these antibodies for clinical trials.” The news also appears in Medical News Today, BioNews Texas and Medical Xpress.