The mechanism behind how the dreaded Alzheimer's disease spreads in the brain may now be understood by looking at the transmission of abnormal proteins, British scientists have revealed.
"We've shown how it probably progresses within an individual person," New Scientist magazine quoted co-leader of the research team, Michel Goedert of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, as saying.
Experimenting on mice, he and his colleagues have demonstrated a key role that the "tau" protein tangles play in Alzheimer's spread in the brain.
The researcher injected the brains of healthy mice with brain material from mice, which make the abnormal form of the protein.
By the end of the experiment, they say, the tangles had spread beyond the sites where they had originally been injected to many distant parts of the brain.
Given the incapability among the healthy mice to make the tau tangles themselves, the researchers say that the only explanation is that the tangles somehow spread or dispersed to neighbouring tissue from the site where they were injected.
"They never usually develop these tangles," says Goedert.
The researcher hope that their future studies will enable them to identify those forms of the tau protein that spread the symptoms, and thereby help choose appropriate medicines to stem this process.
Goedert points out that the progression of the disease starts in a region called the transentorhinal cortex, a kind of junction for memory impulses.
He hopes if his team could find a way of diagnosing and blocking the disease when it has only reached the transentorhinal cortex, they could stop it from progressing to the other vital memory areas.