BRUSSELS, Nov. 9 (Xinhua) -- A team of researchers from Belgium's Catholic University of Leuven (KU Leuven) have discovered how neurodegenerative diseases such as the Alzheimer's disease spread in human brains, the university announced on its website on Wednesday.
The team, led by Patrik Verstreken, found that the harmful proteins causing the diseases were spread from one brain cell to another via synapses, the places where brain cells touch to transmit electrical signals.
"The spread of neurodegenerative diseases like the Alzheimer's can be compared to a drop of ink falling into a glass of water," said Verstreken, underlining synapses's role as an intermediary in the distribution process.
"We knew that these harmful proteins follow the existing brain ramifications, but it was still unclear how the distribution worked exactly," he explained. "Now we can prove that they move through synapses."
Moreover, the researchers also found that familial genetic disorders could affect the transmission process.
For example, one of the abnormalities, known as BIN1, provides smoother transmission of harmful proteins via synapses, and exerts a more rapid spread of the disease.
The discovery of the transmission mechanism opens new perspectives for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, according to the researchers.