Just returned from the annual CurePSP International Research Symposium, held this year in on the campus of University of California San Francisco on October 27. About 120 researchers attended, many from Europe and Japan. The first keynote speaker was Bruce Miller from UCSF, perhaps the country’s leading behavioral neurologist, who gave an overview of PSP/CBD research with an emphasis on activity of the Tau Consortium, the multi-institutional research group that he directs. The other keynoter was Robert Stern, a neuroscientist at Boston University who directs clinical research at BU’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center.
Bruce’s talk touched on many topics — from the nosology and pathology of the various cognitive/behavioral syndromes in the tauopathies to the sleep disturbance in PSP (hyperarousal is common in PSP, while hypoarousal predominates in CBD). Perhaps most interesting was his up-to-the minute summary of the state of tau PET imaging in PSP diagnosis (not nearly ready for prime time, though potential exists).
Bob’s lecture summarized the story of CTE. He emphasized that the most important frequent cause isn’t concussions, but the continual sub-concussive blows to the head such as those suffered by football players during routine blocking and tackling. He was too smart to speculate much about a relationship between the tauopathy of CTE and that of PSP, but I’m not: I’ll say that in both cases, individuals with a genetic predisposition to tau aggregation are exposed to a precipitating factor – repeated brain tissue stretching for one, some sort of toxin for the other. If we can find the genetic background for one, we may find it for the other.
Perhaps the genetic answers will emerge from the whole-exome sequencing project that is complete and in the writing phase or the whole-genome sequencing project that is well under way. But as pointed out in another Symposium talk by Jerry Schellenberg, the U Penn geneticist who heads those efforts for the PSP Genetics Consortium, there’s a lot of “genetic dark matter” in the form of genomic deletions, undetectable by mere sequencing.
Maybe in future posts I’ll get more into the other excellent CurePSP Symposium talks – and the 18 concomitant poster presentations. Or maybe I’ll get distracted by a random shiny object I find somewhere else.