Alzheimer's drug has impressive results in early trial
As of early 2016, some 5.4 million Americans of all ages have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, per the Alzheimer's Association. This condition impedes a person's memory and prevents the brain from functioning at its peak. Because of the sheer number of people affected and that Alzheimer's is a progressive disease, there are researchers everywhere looking for new treatments. But as the ALZ pointed out, many of these drugs and medications only help address the cognitive and behavioral issues. Now, thanks to a team of scientists at the University College London, there is new hope.
"There were 5.4 million Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer's as of 2016."
Most impressive results
As detailed in the August 2016 edition of the journal Nature, that aforementioned hope comes courtesy of a new drug currently in clinical trials. The drug, called aducanumab, was one just one of several experimental options that made it past the Phase I trials. As part of its trials, aducanumab was used on a group of 165 patients in Switzerland in the U.S.; most received a monthly injection while a control group was only given a dummy drug. Aducanumab works by clearing out protein in the brains of Alzheimer's patients.
The proteins in question are actually amyloids, which stick together in large clumps and are a leading cause of Alzheimer's and its impact on a person's overall mental functions. A 2013 joint study from Harvard and Stanford found that the most destructive of these proteins is the beta-amyloid. These amyloid types will latch on to the receptor on nerve cells, wearing them down and preventing synapses from firing or interacting with one another. At the end of the year-long trial, most of the patients who'd received the aducanumab injections experience a total clearing of the amyloid clusters. This also confirmed to the London team that anti-AB (amyloid-beta) treatment may be one of the most impactful treatment methods for combating Alzheimer's.
In an accompanying press release, lead author Robert Howard said that while he and the team were optimistic, it was important to continue on with some caution. Aducanumab still has to go on to subsequent drug trials, and there are the issues of certain side effects, which include headaches and fluid buildup in the brain.
A growth in research
This latest research builds on a similar study published in late 2012 in the journal Neuron. Led by Dr. Ronald DeMattos, that study dealt with a similar antibody that attacked amyloid-beta plaque within the brains of mice. This plaque-specific antibody crossed through the mice's blood-brain barrier and worked without the added risk of microhemorrhage, or small bleeds within the brain.
As Bloomberg Business reported, a similar Alzheimer's drug has also had success as of late. Solanezumab entered its final-stage clinical trial in spring 2016, with the period to end in early 2017. While earlytrials proved impressive, passing the last stage would make Solanezumab one of the only disease-modifying treatments for Alzheimer's. According to Medscape Medical news, the drug actually modifies how the disease attacks parts of the brain, preventing impediments in mental function.