The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research scientists have discovered that a molecule c-Abl, which has a known role in leukaemia, also has a hand in Alzheimer's disease.
The finding offers a new target for drug development that could stave off the pathological disease process.
In their current study, the investigators devised a clever way to activate c-Abl in neurons of normal adult mice. They turned on human c-Abl genes in two different regions - the hippocampus and the neocortex - in adult mice and discovered abundant cell death, especially in the hippocampus.
"You don't even need to count, you can just look and see holes in the cell layers of the hippocampus," said Peter Davies, head of the Feinstein Institute's Litwin-Zucker Center for Research in Alzheimer's Disease.
"It is stunning. Even before the neurons die, there is florid inflammation," added Davies.
The study has been published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.