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Stopping Alzheimers in its tracks?

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    Judith Leach was recently reading about an exciting new development in the treatment of Alzheimers.

    By Judith Leach

As a clinical negligence lawyer, and having previously worked as an intensive care sister caring for patients with acute and chronic brain injuries, I have a particular interest in cases involving neurological damage. I am interested in developments relating to the diagnosis and treatment of all types of neurological conditions.  Alzheimers is a condition that has no cure. It is hoped that in the future this debilitating disease will be preventable or at least curable and there have been recent developments in this area.

Alzheimer’s is caused by build up of a protein called amyloid in the brain. Research is ongoing into the cause of the build up. One theory is that this is an immune response to certain  pathogens (bacteria, virus, other micro-organisms). This  build up gradually affects memory and thinking skills resulting in a decline over years. Some people carry a gene that makes them at increased risk of developing Alzheimers.

Initial trials of new drug: Aducanumab

Results from initial trials have provided hope for those suffering with the debilitating condition of Alzheimer’s. The trials involve a new drug called Aducanumab which is an antibody designed to target amyloid, the protein that builds up in the brain.  It is intended to target the early stage of the disease process.  Unfortunately no drug has yet succeeded in clearing the existing protein and improving outcomes for patients in the final stages.

The study published in August 2016 followed a small trial of Aducanumab, tested in patients with early memory problems and mild Alzheimer’s but with high levels of the amyloid protein in their brain on scan.

Results

The research has found that Aducanumab reduced the level of amyloid shown on brain scan. This is early days for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and further trials are required.  Recruitment into a trial involving greater numbers of participants is underway, recruiting people in the UK aged between 50 and 85 with a confirmed diagnosis.

Dr David Reynolds, Chief Scientific Officer of Alzheimer’s Research UK said:

In continued efforts to develop the first disease-modifying treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, these results provide.. ..evidence that a new class of drug to treat the disease may be on the horizon. This promising trial data shows that Aducanumab is able to clear a key Alzheimer’s protein…..building on earlier studies in mice. The findings suggest that Aducanumab may slow memory and thinking decline in people with early Alzheimer’s and although the analysis is only exploratory in this early trial, it paints a positive picture for ongoing trials with the drug. The ultimate proof of success will be whether Aducanumab is safe and effective in large phase 3 trials, which are currently recruiting participants across the UK. Some of the side effects seen in this study are concerning and will need addressing in the current trials, to ensure that people can stay safely on the drug for long periods”

I will be following the continued progress of these drug trials with interest.

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