Researchers have found that a protein deficiency may cause the early onset of dementia.
They say the results lay the foundation for therapies that one day may benefit those who suffer from the illness that wreak havoc on the brain, the Daily Mail reported Tuesday.
Using animal models, they found a protein deficiency may be linked to frontotemporal dementia -- a form of early-onset dementia that is similar to Alzheimer's disease.
FTD is a fatal disease that destroys cells, or neurons, that comprise the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.
Early symptoms of FTD include personality changes, such as increased erratic or compulsive behaviour. Sufferers later experience difficulties speaking and reading, and often suffer from long-term memory loss.
The study, led by Robert Farese, a professor at the University of California, offers new hope in the fight against this and other related conditions.
Farese and his team showed how a protein called progranulin prevents a class of cells called microglia from becoming "hyperactive".
FTD is usually diagnosed between the ages of 40 and 65, with death occurring within two to 10 years after diagnosis. No drug exists to slow, halt or reverse its progression.