Scientists in the US have welcomed new research which could pave the way to improve treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
Researchers from the US department of energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and UCLA's David Geffen school of medicine have discovered that the neurological damage displayed in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's sufferers is due to nitration – a by-product of the oxidation process.
The oxidation process occurs during metabolism when oxygen in the body takes on more chemically reactive forms.
It is thought that the new link could help to predict the earliest stages of brain impairment, thereby reducing the danger of the neurodegenerative diseases taking hold and causing serious damage before diagnosis.
However, Diana Bigelow, one of the study's authors, warned that "other factors may be involved", meaning that the study's results may not be the only explanation for people developing neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
Researchers are now planning to move on to study tissues with neurodegenerative diseases in a bid to further enhance their preliminary findings.