Emerging Diagnostic and Therapeutic Strategies for Tauopathies

  • David Coughlin
  • David J. IrwinEmail author
Dementia (K Marder, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Dementia


Purpose of Review

Tauopathies represent a spectrum of incurable and progressive age-associated neurodegenerative diseases that currently are diagnosed definitively only at autopsy. Few clinical diagnoses, such as classic Richardson’s syndrome of progressive supranuclear palsy, are specific for underlying tauopathy and no clinical syndrome is fully sensitive to reliably identify all forms of clinically manifest tauopathy. Thus, a major unmet need for the development and implementation of tau-targeted therapies is precise antemortem diagnosis. This article reviews new and emerging diagnostic therapies for tauopathies including novel imaging techniques and biomarkers and also reviews recent tau therapeutics.

Recent Findings

Building evidence from animal and cell models suggests that prion-like misfolding and propagation of pathogenic tau proteins between brain cells are central to the neurodegenerative process. These rapidly growing developments build rationale and motivation for the development of therapeutics targeting this mechanism through altering phosphorylation and other post-translational modifications of the tau protein, blocking aggregation and spread using small molecular compounds or immunotherapy and reducing or silencing expression of the MAPT tau gene.


New clinical criteria, CSF, MRI, and PET biomarkers will aid in identifying tauopathies earlier and more accurately which will aid in selection for new clinical trials which focus on a variety of agents including immunotherapy and gene silencing.


Tauopathy Progressive supranuclear palsy Alzheimer’s disease Immunotherapy Gene therapy Tau-PET 



David Coughlin is supported by the Penn Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics and David J. Irwin is supported by NIH grant K23NS088341, Brightfocus Foundation A2016244S and the Penn Institute on Aging. We thank the patients and their families who participated in brain donation and clinical research reviewed in this manuscript for without their time and effort, these advances would not be possible.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

David Coughlin declares that he has no conflict of interest.

David J. Irwin reports other from GE Healthcare.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • of importance •• of major importance

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Frontotemporal Dementia Center (FTDC)University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of MedicinePhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Hospital of the University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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