Nobel discovery opens window onto Alzheimer’s disease

(Reuters) – The discovery of cells in the brain that act as the body’s internal global positioning system, which won three scientists the Nobel Prize for medicine on Monday, opens an intriguing new window onto dementia.

Since these spatial cells are among the first to be hit in Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia — explaining why sufferers often lose their way — understanding how they are degraded should shed important light on the disease process.

That is the belief of British-American researcher John O’Keefe, winner of the 2014 prize alongside Norwegians May-Britt and Edvard Moser, who plans to take his research to the next level as director of a new brain institute in London.

“We’re now setting up to do much more high-tech studies where we hope to follow the progression of disease over time,” he told reporters after hearing he would share the 8 million Swedish crowns ($1.1 million) prize.

“This will give us the first handle as to when and where the disease starts and how we can attack it at a the molecular and cellular level.”

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