Drug that can stop mental decline is good news for Alzheimer’s patients
A drug has been found to stop the decline in memory and thinking skills of people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, according to a recent study.
New research published in the journal Nature, which studied the brains of 165 people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, showed the antibody drug aducanumab could remove the toxic protein known as amyloid plaques that can build up in brains and cause people’s memory and thinking to deteriorate.
The research showed the drug successfully removed clumps of amyloid from the brain of mice and people. By removing the amyloid plaques, which stops brain cells communicating, the drug is aiming to modify an underlying cause of Alzheimer’s disease. So far there are no treatments available that are able to do this.
mg/kg, through intravenous infusion once a month for a year.
The study involved people in the early stages of the disease as well as those with mild Alzheimer’s who were randomly split into five groups by researchers. One group received a placebo and the others received different doses of the drug, from a 1 mg/kg dose up to 10 mg/kg, through intravenous infusion once a month for a year.
The study showed that people who were given the drug had a reduction in the amount of amyloid present in their brain after a year. People who took the drug also showed less of a decline in their cognitive abilities specifically memory and thinking. More amyloid was also removed when people took higher doses of the drug.
Dr James Pickett, head of research at Alzheimer’s Society said: “These results are the most detailed and promising that we’ve seen for a drug that aims to modify the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s disease.
“The study showed that the drug, aducanumab, was first able to remove clumps of amyloid – a toxic protein associated with Alzheimer’s – from the brain of mice and also, excitingly, in people.
“What is most compelling is that more amyloid was cleared when people took higher doses of the drug. No existing treatments for Alzheimer’s directly interfere with the disease process – and so a drug that actually slows the progress of the disease by clearing amyloid would be a significant step.
Larger trials underway
“There is still some work to be done before we know whether this could be a new treatment. Higher doses did cause side effects, like headaches, and this study was not designed to measure whether the drug could slow decline in memory and thinking. 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.”
The drug will now be tested in a larger phase three clinical trial to get a clearer indication of how effective the drug is. Larger trials are underway around the world including in the UK and are due to finish in 2020.
The phase three trial is recruiting British participants with mild memory and thinking problems. If you would like to take part in the study or know someone with mild memory issues, you can find out whether you are eligibile for the dementia research study via the Join Dementia Research service.
To register to participate in dementia and memory research visit www.joindementiaresearch.nihr.ac.uk.