There are hopes that a gene-swap therapy used to cure an extremely rare neurodegenerative disease in children could help to treat Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
The procedure - which involves administering an altered virus into the brain that switches the infected genes with safe versions - has been proven to be effective in the treatment of Canavan disease.
Although the research appears in the latest version of the Science Translational Medicine journal, US scientists began the study in 2001 and have since successfully treated 13 children with Canavan disease, the youngest of which was just three months old.
The process involves drilling small holes into the patient's brain and administering a specially-tailored virus.
Dr R Jude Samulski, who was heavily involved in the study, said: "The genetic information put into the brains of individuals has not caused adverse effects, toxicity, or cancer."
As a result, Dr Samulski speculates the treatment could be used for other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's.
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