The discovery of a protein could be instrumental in developing treatments and prevention methods for dementia.
Studies led by Professor Joel Buxbaum highlighted that transthyretin (TTR), which is found in the liver and tends to do more harm than good, could actually be beneficial in the fight against the degenerative condition.
Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute found that, while TTR can form dangerous substances when produced in the liver, it could also protect against Alzheimer's disease aggregates when made in the brain.
It is hoped that future drugs that can increase how much of this protein is created - especially in neurons - could be conducive to fighting and stopping the onset of the condition.
"This result was completely unexpected when we started this research. But now we realise that it could indicate a new approach for Alzheimer's prevention and therapy," Professor Buxbaum revealed.
Head of research at Alzheimer's Research UK Dr Simon Ridley was quoted by the Daily Express as saying it was interesting that a protein that could be harmful in some circumstances could also be protective in others.
This "highlights the complexity of the human body and the challenges facing dementia research", he said.
When TTR was used in experiments with mice, it stopped amyloid beta clumps forming, which ravage the brain, causing memory loss and other symptoms of the disease.
Scientists are now keen to create a compound that is suitable for drug treatment, in a bid to investigate this discovery in greater depth. The full findings of this research can be viewed in the May 21st issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.
It is thought dementia costs the economy as much as £17 billion annually. However, with an ageing population, this figure could skyrocket in the future as more people are diagnosed with the degenerative condition.
Furthermore, a number of people are believed to have the disease but are currently unaware of it.
Find out about dementia care and support services at Barchester care homes.