April 25, 2017 0807 GMT
Researchers used MAX IV synchrotron infrared spectroscopy to produce what they believe are the earliest images of Alzheimer's disease in the brain — before the formation of tell-tale toxic clumps of beta-amyloid proteins, UPI reported.
The new images challenge the long-held belief that beta-amyloid clumps or plaques appear instantaneously in the brain causing Alzheimer's disease.
Gunnar Gouras, a professor of experimental neurology at Lund, said, "No one has used this method to look at Alzheimer's development before.
"The images tell us that the progression is slower than we thought and that there are steps in the development of Alzheimer's disease that we know little about. This, of course, sparked our curiosity."
The researchers report that beta-amyloid did not appear as a single peptide but as a unit of four peptides that stick together, known as a tetramer.
The results of these images have changed what researchers believe is the root cause of the disease and suggest in the new study that abnormal separation of the four peptides could represent the beginning of the disease — findings that could change the development of therapies in the future.
Gouras added, "This is very, very exciting. In another amyloid disease, transthyretin amyloidosis, the breaking up of the tetramer has been identified as key in disease development.
"For this disease, there is already a drug in the clinic that stabilizes the tetramers, consequently slowing down disease progression.
"We hope that stabilizing beta-amyloid in a similar fashion may on the way forward in developing future therapies."