MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s a disease with no cure and limited treatment, but this week the Mayo Clinic announced the findings of a major study that is giving Alzheimer’s researchers new hope.

The study is published in the latest edition of the journal “Brain.”

It describes what Mayo researchers have learned about proteins in the brain that fuel the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease.

WCCO’s Angela Davis talked with a neurologist about the significance of this breakthrough.

For decades, doctors have known two proteins, amyloid and tau, that contribute to memory loss, but their relationship has been focus of debate.

Dr. David Knopman is a part of a team of neurologists at Mayo Clinic’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

“We like to think of A causes B causes C,” Knopman said. “Well, it may be here that A causes C and B causes C.”

He said they studied more than 3,600 brains in their post-mortem brain bank. The patients died in different stages of dementia.

“What this study does is to validate the scans we are doing in life, in fact, reflect what the brain looks like in the traditional way under the microscope, after they die,” he said.

He said advances in imaging technology are very valuable. Scans of the brain reveal the presence of the damaging proteins.

“The abnormalities of this tau protein are the thing that is most closely related to causing memory and thinking difficulties,” Knopman said. “It is the thing that does the dirty work.”

He says much more research needs to be done but they are a step closer to finding better treatments and maybe even a cure.

“It’s giving us a much better picture of what the disease looks like, even in people who don’t have symptoms but who are destined to get the disease,” he said.

The director of Mayo Clinic’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center testified before a U.S. Senate committee in Washington, Wednesday.

Dr. Ronald Peterson expressed the need for more government funding for research, as our population grows older and the expense of Alzheimer’s increases.

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