A new study in Nature offers what looks to be a genuine advance in the fight against Alzheimer's, one that raises hopes for a preventative drug in the future. Researchers discovered that a particular gene mutation prevalent in Icelanders slows the production of a substance called beta amyloid in the brain, reports the New York Times. Excessive amounts of the substance have been linked to the disease, and the study found that elderly people with the anti-amyloid mutation are better protected, notes WebMD.
Drug companies have been working on amyloid remedies for a while, so far without success, but the discovery brings strong evidence that they're on the right track—especially if they can mimic the effects of the newly discovered mutation. The finding is "extraordinarily important," says an Alzheimer's expert at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, calling it the biggest breakthrough in more than 20 years. But "for those already suffering, this will have little benefit in terms of new drugs soon," he adds.