A new study could change the way scientists approach dementia and Alzheimer's treatment.
Researchers at Duke University found a way to stop mice from developing dementia, BBC News reports. The scientists found that by blocking immune cells from breaking down arginine, an amino acid, they were able to stop the mice's immune systems from attacking nutrients. The researchers believe arginine deprivation could contribute to the development of Alzheimer's disease.
The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, found that mice who underwent the researchers' treatment did better on memory tests. The researchers' next test will involve providing the same drug, difluoromethylornithine, to older mice with advanced Alzheimer's, to see if it affects their condition.
"All of this suggests to us that if you can block this local process of amino acid deprivation, then you can protect the mouse, at least, from Alzheimer's disease," Dr. Matthew Kan, one of the study researchers, told BBC News. "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."
There are no drugs on the market to treat Alzheimer's disease, which affected as many as five million Americans in 2013.