Nitric oxide could hold the key to a new treatment for dementia, which researchers have shown is linked to Alzheimer's plaques.
The build-up of amyloid-beta when plaques develop affects nitric oxide signalling by binding to a cell surface receptor known as CD36, according to researchers from the Pitt School of Medicine.
Commenting on the findings, which are published in the Public Library of Science One, the scientists suggest that increasing nitric oxide levels could protect neurons against degeneration.
Study author Jeffrey Isenberg said: "It's possible that an agent that could block either CD36 or CD47 could slow the progress of neuronal degeneration in Alzheimer's by protecting the production of nitric oxide in the brain.
"We have already indentified therapeutic agents that can interrupt the inhibitory signal induced by these interactions to maximise nitric oxide production."
Recent research by scientists at Washington University suggested that people at a high risk of developing Alzheimer's have abnormal brain function even before the appearance of telltale amyloid plaques.
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