Scientists in Florida have made a breakthrough in regards to potential avenues for dementia treatment.
Experts have identified a defect in a pathway that, they believe, contributes to the overproduction of a toxic protein and the loss of neurons in the brain. Both of these are attributed to the onset of Alzheimer's disease, among other factors.
It is hoped this finding could bring about a breakthrough in the quest to develop a cure or effective treatment for the degenerative disease. If scientists can create a pill that can bring new life into this pathway, it could have dramatic effects.
Doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville targeted the pathway known as Wnt signalling for their research. This is known to be crucial in allowing cells to survive, embryos to develop and synaptic activity to take place. If there is any upset to this - either too much or not enough activity - then disease can come about.
This discovery was made using a mouse model and it transpired a certain protein - known as LRP6 - was deficient. This monitors the production of amyloid-beta - commonly thought to be a hallmark of cognitive decline - and the communication between neurons.
Lower levels of LRP6 can create an aggregation of amyloid-beta and hampers neurons' ability to communicate.
The study's lead investigator Dr Guojun Bu, who is a neuroscientist, said: "This defect is likely not the sole contributor to development of Alzheimer's disease, but our findings suggest it is very important, and could be therapeutically targeted to possibly prevent Alzheimer's or treat early disease.
"Identifying small molecule compounds to restore LRP6 and the Wnt pathway, without inducing side effects, may help prevent or treat Alzheimer's disease."
He added that these findings were an "exciting new strategy".
The full results of this research can be viewed in the online journal Neuron.
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