World Alzheimer's Day 2015
Molecule identified that when added to water helps clear amyloid plaque – an early symptom of Alzheimer’s iStock

Scientists have identified a small molecule that, when added to drinking water which was consumed by lab mice, showed signs it has the potential to battle symptoms common in the early onset of Alzheimer's disease. Amyloid plaque, which is when protein clusters gather between brain cells, is typical in those who suffer from the degenerative disease and causes damage to the cells.

YoungSoo Kim and colleagues from the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), Seoul, South Korea, ran experiments on lab mice that possess the early Alzheimer's symptom and found that adding a molecule known as 4-(2-hydroxyethyl)-1- piperazinepropanesulphonic acid – or EPPS as it is more commonly known – to drinking water helps to breakdown the plaque in the brain cells and can help treat dementia-like symptoms. Other treatments had been shown to help prevent the build-up of plaque, but this is the first to help remove it once it is already in place.

"The ability of EPPS to rescue [amyloid plaque] aggregation and behavioural deficits provides strong support for the view that the accumulation of Ab is an important mechanism underlying Alzheimer's disease," read the report published in Nature Communications. This happens when the molecule binds to the amyloid plaque and converts it into monomers – a single molecule that can be bonded to other molecules to form a polymer.

Furthermore, the treatment also improved the learning and memory capabilities in mice. However, further studies need to be conducted to determine how safe and effective the new treatment is for humans.