WASHINGTON (AFP) - British scientists have discovered a type of antibody in mice that blocks a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, offering a potential new route to treatment, according to research published on Tuesday.

The antibodies shut down a protein called Dkk1 that in turn stops the formation of amyloid plaque in the brain, a key factor in the progression of Alzheimer’s, said the findings in the Journal of Neuroscience.

When this plaque builds up, it leads to a loss of connection between neurons, known as synapses, in the part of the brain known as the hippocampus which handles learning and memory. “These novel findings raise the possibility that targeting this secreted Dkk1 protein could offer an effective treatment to protect synapses against the toxic effect of amyloid-B,” said lead author Patricia Salinas of the University College London Department of Cell and Developmental Biology.

“Importantly, these results raise the hope for a treatment and perhaps the prevention of cognitive decline early in Alzheimer’s disease.”