The Independent is this morning reporting that American scientists have discovered a new potential cause of Alzheimer’s disease, which it may be possible to target with drug treatments.
Researchers at Duke University, in North Carolina, announced that their studies of the effects of Alzheimer’s on mice had thrown up a new process they believe contributes to the disease’s development.
They observed how immune cells that protect the brain in healthy cases instead begin to consume a vital nutrient called arginine.
By blocking this process with a drug, they were able to prevent the formation of ‘plaques’ in the brain that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease, and also halted memory loss in the mice.
Experts in the UK said the findings filled gaps in their understanding of the disease’s development and could “open new doors” in the increasingly frustrated global hunt for a dementia therapy. They explained that while no technique that is tested in an animal can be guaranteed to work the same way in humans, the findings are particularly encouraging because, until now, the exact role of the immune system and arginine in Alzheimer’s was completely unknown.