People with Alzheimer’s disease have fat deposits in the brain. For the first time since the disease was described 109 years ago, researchers affiliated with the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM) have discovered accumulations of fat droplets in the brain of patients who died from the disease and have identified the nature of the fat.

This breakthrough, published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, opens up a new avenue in the search for a medication to cure or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Over 47.5 million people worldwide have Alzheimer’s disease or some other type of dementia, according to the World Health Organization. Despite decades of research, the only medications currently available treat the symptoms alone.

This study highlights what might prove to be a missing link in the field. Researchers initially tried to understand why the brain’s stem cells, which normally help repair brain damage, are unresponsive in Alzheimer’s disease.

This article originally appeared on Psychiatry Advisor

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