Scientists claim to have made a significant breakthrough in identifying how Alzheimer's disease impairs brain function.
For many years, it has been thought that fixed clumps or "plaques" of amyloid protein found in the brains of people with the condition were responsible for memory problems.
However, an article in the journal Annals of Neurology claims that it is the floating clumps of amyloid, called oligomers, that impair brain function.
Researchers from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine found that mice that formed oligomers but no plaques were just as impaired by the disease as those that developed both.
In addition, when a device was introduced that would turn those oligomers into plaques, the mice were no more impaired than before.
"These findings may enable the development of neuroimaging agents and drugs that visualise or detoxify oligomers," said lead author Sam Gandy MD, associate director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
According to the Alzheimer's Research Trust, there are currently 820,000 people living with dementia in the UK, while Alzheimer's disease accounts for two-thirds of those cases.
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