Identical Twins Share Tau Trajectory, but Lifestyle Helps

From the Alz Forum

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Other twin cohorts are also investigating the heritability of AD, and have so far found at least moderate similarities within twin pairs in the presence of amyloid plaques (Lindgren et al., 2021; Koncz et al., 2021).—Jessica Shugart

Identical twins share the same womb, the same genome—and, it turns out, the same pattern of neurofibrillary tangles. This, according to a paper published January 12 in Brain. Led by Anouk den Braber and Pieter Jelle Visser at VU Amsterdam, the study compared the burden of tau tangles, and their regional distribution, among 39 pairs of identical twins who were in their 60s and 70s, some of whom tested positive for Aβ plaques.

  • Among 39 sets of identical twins, tau accumulated in similar regions within each pair.
  • A person’s tau-PET scan alone picked out his or her twin with 86 percent accuracy.
  • Twins with discordant tau patterns also differed in amyloid status or lifestyle.

For most of the twins, tau deposited in both siblings in a strikingly similar pattern, so much so that the researchers were able to identify a person’s twin with 86 percent accuracy based solely on his or her tau-PET scan. Some twin pairs had discordant patterns of tau accumulation. Those were more likely seen in twins who differed in their Aβ status. Intriguingly, lifestyle factors also tracked with these differences, such that the twin who was less physically or socially active tended to have more tau tangles.

“I think the study is truly intriguing and novel,” commented Oskar Hansson of Lund University in Sweden. “It confirms that genetics plays a very important role in the pathogenesis of AD, and it indicates that genetic variations might also influence where in the brain tau fibrils tend to accumulate.”

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