Historically, in Alzheimer's disease research, a lot of attention has been paid to the development of highly selective fluorophores for beta amyloid plaques. With a shift in the understanding of the disease and the importance of a network of cross-talk interactions, the development of small-molecule fluorescent dyes with high selectivity for (hyperphosphorylated) tau protein aggregates in neurofibrillary tangles has been gaining increasing attention. Fluorescent dyes for the selective labelling of tau aggregates in histological AD brain sections have been described, spanning the entire visible range of the electromagnetic spectrum. Despite the relatively early stages of the development of the field, a large diversity in probe architectures has been reported. Importantly, a handful of near-infrared-emissive dyes have been described as well, and some of these have exhibited good pharmacological profiles, with a significant blood-brain-barrier permeability, and a demonstrated ability to label tau tangles in vivo in small-animal models of Alzheimer's disease and other tauopathies. The developments summarized in the current work are expected to aid the unravelling of the diverse set of players in the etiology of Alzheimer's disease. In this tutorial review, we seek to provide the reader with an overview of the most important recent developments and hope to provide some guidelines for the design of future probes.
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