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Alzheimer's Disease US scientists make new breakthrough in study of disease

Research into the brains of Alzheimer's sufferers has typically focused on two hallmarks - "plaques" and "tangles."

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play (AFP/MSN)

United States researchers have discovered that the immune system may play a part in Alzheimer's disease.

According to the Duke University study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, while the exact role of immune system cells was unclear, the research could point to a new potential cause of Alzheimer's while eventually opening a door to a new treatment strategy.

MSN reports that in the study, it was discovered that certain immune system cells which normally protect the brain began to consume a key nutrient, arginine. In tests on mice, researchers were able to block the process with a small-molecule drug to prevent brain plaques and memory loss.

Shedding some light on the finding, Carol Colton, a senior author of the study and professor of neurology at the Duke University School of Medicine said "if indeed arginine consumption is so important to the disease process, maybe we could block it and reverse the disease,"

Research into the brains of Alzheimer's sufferers has typically focused on two hallmarks - "plaques" and "tangles."

In that study, a type of mouse with a similar type of immune system to a human was created and researchers found that immune cells called microglia began to divide and change early in the onset of Alzheimer's.

But by using the drug difluoromethylornithine (DFMO) before the onset of symptoms, scientists were able to block damage caused by arginase, an enzyme which breaks down arginine.

Hence Colton's delight at this latest findings. According to her:

"We see this study opening the doors to thinking about Alzheimer's in a completely different way, to break the stalemate of ideas in Alzheimer's disease."

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