A molecule which could block the progress of Alzheimer's by stopping the death of brain cells may help researchers find a treatment.
The "housekeeping" molecule, which occurs naturally in humans, has been identified by scientists who believe it could break the cycle of events which lead to the most common form of dementia.
The discovery moves researchers a step closer to finding a substance that could eventually be used to treat the disease.
Lead author of the study, Samuel Cohen - a research Fellow at St John's College, Cambridge, said: "A great deal of work in this field has gone into understanding which microscopic processes are important in the development of Alzheimer's disease; we are now starting to reap the rewards of this hard work.
"Our study shows, for the first time, one of these critical processes being specifically inhibited, and reveals that by doing so we can prevent the toxic effects of protein aggregation that are associated with this terrible condition."
Further tests on mice, confirmed that a chain reaction that leads to Alzheimer's was suppressed.
Dr Cohen said: "It may not actually be too difficult to find other molecules that do this, it's just that it hasn't been clear what to look for until recently.