Scientists at the University of Minnesota have found a way to reverse Alzheimer's in mice.
The discovery could help researchers develop new treatments and understand what causes the disease.
In a study published in Nature Medicine, University of Minnesota Medical School researchers identified what they believe may be causing problems in the brain.
“We’ve identified a target that could be utilized to develop new treatments to restore communication between neurons within the brain,” Karen Ashe, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the Department of Neurology and senior author of the study said in a news release.
According to the release, Ashe's team was looking for something that could be affecting tau.
Tau is a protein that is normal for the body, but in Alzheimer's patients, it changes and clumps together, causing memory loss.
And they found a naturally-occurring enzyme called caspase-2, which they believe may be messing with healthy tau. They discovered tau builds up in neurons when the enzyme cuts tau at a certain point.
By reducing caspase-2 or preventing the process, researchers say that it may be possible for the brain to repair itself and recover from memory loss.
Dr. Ashe said the finding was a huge step in the fight against Alzheimer's.
“Next, we hope to collaborate with our colleagues in drug development to translate this towards care, with the hope to help improve and preserve the quality of life for those struggling with memory-related conditions,” Ashe said in the release.
Ashe, who is a world-renowned expert on Alzheimer’s disease, told the Star Tribune that out of all the discoveries she's made over the years, this one has the "most potential for becoming an effective drug."
But she also told the paper that there's still a long road ahead – developing a pill to block the enzyme could take 10 years even if they're successful.