Scientists are calling it a breakthrough and a turning point: In a new study, a compound successfully halted brain cell death in mice, meaning we're one step closer to a pill that can treat Alzheimer's, the Independent reports. Neurodegenerative diseases halt the production of key proteins, which in turn results in the unprotected brain cells dying off, and symptoms appearing. The compound blocks the faulty brain signal that causes the initial "shutdown," thus basically flipping the switch from "off" back to "on." Proteins are produced, brain cells are protected, and symptoms are reversed.
The mice in the study had prion disease, which is similar to a human neurodegenerative disorder. After receiving the compound, memory loss and other symptoms including impaired reflexes and limb dragging were reversed; the treated mice also lived longer than those who didn't receive the compound, Sky News reports. Though it's still a long way off, scientists think a treatment based on these findings could also help people with Parkinson's disease. Now the bad news: The mice did suffer side effects, including weight loss and diabetes. (In other Alzheimer's news, how well you can smell peanut butter could predict your risk of getting the disease.)