Scientists believe they are the closest yet to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease – the first real breakthrough for more than a decade.
The new treatment works by latching on to clumps of amyloid protein that are thought to clog the brain over time which eventually kill off neurons which are responsible for vital electrical signals jumping across small gaps. This then affects basic functions like memory, balance, speech etc. all which are classic symptoms of a dementia like Alzheimer’s disease.
The drug, called Aducanumab, is like an antibody, highlighting any amyloid and treating it like an enemy within the body. It then sets about destroying any of these particular rogue proteins and thus, clearing the brain of the obstruction. Those patients given the highest doses of the drug resulted in almost complete eradication of the protein.
Professor Roger Nitsch from the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Zurich stated:
‘The results of this clinical study make us optimistic that we can potentially make a great step forward in treating Alzheimer’s disease.’ ‘ In the high dose group the amyloid has almost completely disappeared. The effect size of this drug is unprecedented.’ ‘Despite it being a small sample there appeared to be a slowing of cognitive decline and functioning decline. The group with a high degree of amyloid removal were basically stable. If we could reproduce this it would be terrific.’
If proved right, this drug would be the first treatment of its kind to have an impact on the disease, by slowing or actually halting its progress. Today, there are around 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, predicted to increase to around a million by 2025 and to double by 2050. If Aducanumab continues to show results as seen, then it could have a massive positive benefit to not only people already diagnosed with the disease, but to those who are most at risk of developing it.
Dr James Picket, Head of Research at The Alzheimer’s Society commented:
‘While there were hints that it might have an effect on the symptoms of the disease, we need to see the results from further, larger research trials to understand whether this is the case. These larger trials are now under way, including in the UK, and are due to finish in 2020.’