Researchers from Penn State University have discovered a new potential aspect to target when developing future Alzheimer's treatment methods.
Professor Gong Chen and his team found there was a very high level of a certain neurotransmitter in the brains of dead patients who had this form of cognitive decline.
This neurotransmitter, called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), was in a part of the brain called the dentate gyrus, which is the entrance to the hippocampus. This is a crucial part of the brain that is responsible for learning and memory.
Those who had Alzheimer's had notably increased levels of GABA in the cells that surround and support each neuron in the brain of healthy individuals without the degenerative disorder.
Professor Chen said the findings of this study "can be targeted in further research as a tool for the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer's disease".
The team also established new methods to determine the concentration of GABA in mice models both with and without the condition. It transpired the animals with high levels of the neurotransmitter also performed poorly on learning and memory tests.
This discovery comes in light of the disappointing results of drugs for this form of dementia, which actually proved to have a negative effect on those with the disease, as opposed to improving it.
It was this failure that provided the motivation for Professor Chen and his team to try to devise some way of fighting the disease that wreaks havoc on the brain's memory capabilities.
The focus of these ineffective treatment methods had targeted on the build-up of amyloid protein, which is widely considered to be a hallmark of the condition.
Professor Chen said: "The research of our lab and others now has focused on finding new drug targets and on developing new approaches for diagnosing and treating Alzheimer's disease."
No cure has been found for this degenerative condition and it is thought to affect 800,000 people in the UK alone. By the year 2021, more than one million people will have the condition.
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