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Two new drugs seek to treat Alzheimer’s at its onsetposted on August 13, 2012 - 1:10 pm
The search continues for a drug to treat the cause of Alzheimer’s after it was announced recently that a significant clinical trial involving the drug bapineuzumab had failed. According to The New York Times, the 1,100 Americans diagnosed with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s involved in the third phase of the trial did not demonstrate improved cognition or daily functioning after treatment.
Developed jointly by multi-national pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, bapineuzumab is intended to function as an antibody (blood molecule), which would counteract the effects of beta amyloid (a toxic protein). Many scientists believe that beta amyloid is the origin of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative conditions.
Although researchers will continue studying outcomes of bapineuzumab—currently there are three more clinical trials scheduled—its failure casts doubts on the importance of its role in Alzheimer’s as well as what stage is the most responsive to treatment.
If you were to ask Dr. Martin Watterson and his team at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, he would argue the best stage for treatment is at the onset of symptoms. Watterson, a molecular pharmacology and biological chemistry professor, is the lead developer of a different drug that could potentially treat Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and brain trauma as all have neuroinflammation in common.
Neuroinflammation is when nerves in the brain become aggravated, damaged and eventually die, which can permanently hinder certain mental and bodily functions. Unlike the research involved with bapineuzumab, Watterson believes that it is neuroinflammation and not beta amyloid that initially triggers neurodegenerative conditions.
When these nerves become inflamed, a molecule called cytokine is released to attack the stressors. But it can easily get out of control and begin attacking healthy parts of the brain. Consequently the purpose of Watterson’s drug is to reduce neuroinflammation before it has the chance to wreak havoc.
Thus far, the unnamed drug has been tested on genetically-engineered mice that showed dramatic improvement after 11 months; some mice even made a full recovery. As a result, the next step for Watterson and his team is to secure funding from a biotech company to start clinical trials on willing participants.