( dpa ) - A team of Singapore scientists has discovered new information about the human brain that could eventually lead to a drug for Alzheimer's disease, a published report said on Thursday.
Led by Associate Professor Xiao Zhi Cheng, the team said they uncovered why the brain produces harmful plaque deposits that lead to the onset of Alzheimer's later in life, according to The Straits Times.
Following seven years of work, the researchers noted that the build-up, which dampens vital brain functions, is a by-product of the brain's natural regenerative processes.
The breakthrough has raised hopes that a drug could be developed to prevent the plaque from accumulating.
Xiao, with Singapore General Hospital's clinical research department and Dr. Gavin Dawe, with the National University of Singapore, said scientists have long know about the plaque build-up, but questioned why the brain would produce the self-destructive substance.
The team discovered that as brain cells regenerate, plaque is produced as a by-product, the report said. It does not appear to do any damage in younger people. In later life, it can disrupt vital brain functions and lead to Alzheimer's.
The disease hits one in 100 people over the age of 65, depriving seniors of their memories. There is no known cure.
The scientists found that the process producing new brain cells also results in the destructive plaque, explaining why Alzheimer's patients have more new brain cells.
The researchers have identified two types of protein molecules in the brain that control production.
Pharmaceutical companies can use the findings to "design a drug to block the harmful part while promoting the good part," Xiao said.