Yale University researchers have revealed that immune cells may reduce the plaques that cause Alzheimer's disease if a chemical is inactivated.
Lead researcher Richard Flavell has revealed that new finding results from experiments on mice.
For their study, he and his colleagues created transgenic mice predisposed to develop brain plaques, and doubly transgenic mice that also had a gene that blocks TGF-beta, a chemical used by the immune system.
The researchers were expecting a better performance from the first group of mice on different mazes, when they were 18 months.
However, they were surprised to see that the doubly transgenic mice performed better, and had up to 90 per cent fewer plaques in their brains.
The researchers say that they do not know exactly what would have led to that effect, but it seems that blocking TGF-beta allowed macrophages-immune cells that digest unwanted materials-to get across the blood-brain barrier into the brain, where they feasted on the plaques.
"It was like a vacuum cleaner," Nature Medicine quoted Flavell as saying.
He also admitted that his team had yet to find out what effect a TGF-beta blocker would have on humans with Alzheimer's.
"To reverse the decline would be an improvement," said Flavell.