Goettingen: Scientists in Germany said they had developed a drug that halts the progress of Alzheimer`s disease in mice and hope to begin tests on humans in two years` time.
The treatment, which they described as immunisation, employs a new antibody to stop brain degeneration.
The findings were announced by the medical department of the University of Goettingen where an international team included Dutch and Finnish scientists.
The paper was published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
A spokesman, Thomas Bayer, said the findings from the laboratory-mouse experiments could be applied to humans too and it was assumed that tests on human Alzheimer`s patients would begin within two years.
The treatment is novel because the antibodies are not aimed against the so-called amyloid plaques which clog the brains of Alzheimer`s sufferers. Instead they counter molecular structures in the brain that produce a protein, pyroglutamate abeta.
The team believes that this protein is what causes dementia.
Bayer said past therapies had tried to destroy the plaques, but this had grave side-effects.
"You have to consider the plaques as a kind of garbage can for the abeta protein and leave them in peace so you don`t spread the poison," he said. It made more sense to stop the poison being generated in the first place.
"We probably can`t cure Alzheimer`s with this type of passive immunisation, but the research results prove that antibodies can halt its progress," he said.