British researchers writing in the journal Nature said they had found a major pathway leading to brain cell death in mice with prion disease, the mouse equivalent of Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease (CJD).
They then worked out how to block it, and were able to prevent brain cells from dying, helping the mice live longer.
The finding, described by one expert as “a major breakthrough in understanding what kills neurons”, points to a common mechanism by which brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and CJD damage the nerve cells.
In neurodegenerative diseases, proteins “mis-fold” in a various ways, leading to a buildup of misshapen proteins, the researchers explained in the study.
These misshapen proteins form the plaques found in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s and the Lewy bodies found in Parkinson’s disease