A team of Japanese researchers has developed a compound to suppress the formation of a protein believed to cause Alzheimer's disease, according to a study published Wednesday in a British science journal.

The researchers, mostly from Doshisha University, including Satoru Funamoto, associate professor of neuropathology, said they hope that the substance, which inhibits the formation of beta amyloid, may help establish preventive measures against the disease or treatment methods with fewer side effects.

The team, which published the findings in the online-only Nature Communications, said it may be possible to treat Alzheimer's disease by suppressing the action of enzymes involved in the formation of beta amyloid.

Because these enzymes play an important role in other parts of the body than the brain, inhibiting their functions can lead to serious side effects, such as skin cancer.

So the team focused on the process in which the enzymes bind themselves to the protein C99 to produce beta amyloid. After studying the mechanism of the process in detail, the team succeeded in developing a substance that inhibits the binding process without compromising the function of the enzymes.

When the team administered the compound to mice, the production of beta amyloid in their brains was reduced by about 20 percent, they said.

Funamoto said beta amyloid production was reduced 70 to 80 percent when cultured cells were supplied with the compound.

The professor said an even greater effect can be expected if it is engineered to act better in the brain.

"We hope to start clinical research possibly in five years," Funamoto said.