Researchers at the University of Leeds have found that a drug commonly used to treat epilepsy could help clear the plaques in the brain associated with Alzheimer's disease.
The plaques are known to lead to the progressive death of nerve cells in the brain linked to many forms of dementia.
Sodium valproate - which is marketed as the anti-seizure drug Epilim - has been shown by the research team to reactivate the body's own defences against a small protein called amyloid beta peptide, which is the main component of the brain plaques characteristic in Alzheimer's.
"The fact that we've been able to show that a well-established, safe and relatively inexpensive drug could help treat Alzheimer's is an extremely exciting development," said lead researcher Professor Tony Turner from the University's Faculty of Biological Sciences.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia and has no cure.