Research shows experimental plaque-clearing offers Alzheimer's patients hope

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Removing the brain plaque that is a common characteristic of Alzheimer's disease can result in improved function, according to a new study.

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis injected mice with an antibody that cleared plaque in parts of the brain. They found that where the plaque was cleared, swelling on nerve cell branches disappeared quickly and the brain cells recovered rapidly.

While the true cause of Alzheimer's is not known, plaque is a prime suspect in the brain degeneration that occurs with the disease.

The results of this research may indicate that plaque damage once thought to be irreversible may not be permanent, according to a senior author of the study, results of which will appear in the Feb. 5 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation. However, researchers admit more studies are needed to determine if similar results could be seen in people.