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Race For Alzheimer's Cure

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, July 16, 2009 12:10 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Alzheimer's Disease, Dementia, Brain Disease, Elderly

An old antihistamine drug was used in this Alzheimer's disease research to improve cognitive function.
Image Source: National Institute on Aging

Race For A Cure



IMAGE SOURCE:  WikiMedia Commons/ Enzymes acting on the amyloid protein cutting it into fragments of beta-amyloid/ author: National Institute on Aging


New treatments for Alzheimer’s may be on the horizon.   Unveiled at the annual meeting of the Alzheimer’s Association in Vienna, the new interventions show they work on two different brain abnormalities.

Dimebolin, (Dimebon ®, Medivation) appears to improve cognitive function even though it actually increases the level of beta amyloid protein reports Forbes

How it works is a mystery. 

The research describes dimebolin as a “retired Russian antihistamine”.   The finding is surprising because the drug was found to raise amyloid levels, a brain protein known to be the main component of plaque found in brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. 

"This is a very surprising and unexpected result," said study author Dr. Samuel Gandy, associate director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

Since every major pharmaceutical company is working on a drug to reduce the amount of amyloid and other brain proteins this research may help focus the research.   

"This will definitely tell us something previously unsuspected about either a novel drug target or about amyloid metabolism," Gandy continued. "Unraveling this story will change how we think about Alzheimer's drugs, how we think about amyloid, or both."

Drug companies are racing to find a cure to neutralize the devastation of plaque and amyloid levels. Dimebolin may neutralize the excess amyloid and may move it outside of the neuron instead of inside where it may do the most harm, Gandy speculates. 

Pharmaceutical companies are hoping to win approval from the Food and Drug Administration for the drug if it is found effective in Phase three trials.

Tau Tangles – Second Study

The other study incorporates immunotherapy, that is treatment that induces or enhances/ suppresses an immune response targeting beta amyloid. Late state anti-amyloid immunotherapy trials in people were eventually stopped after about six percent of participants developed brain inflammation. 

Tau tangles are receiving as much attention for immunotherapy as amyloid.   Also known as neurofibrillary tangles, the lesions are made up of abnormal folded protein, reports the Alzheimer’s Association.   An accumulation in the brain is associated with the progression of Alzheimer’s symptoms, perhaps more so than amyloid.     

Israeli researchers from Hadassah University Hospital and Hebrew University vaccinated mice who had been bred to develop tangles with a combination of three phosphorylated-tau peptides, which are shortened versions of the protein. They found a 40 percent reduction in the number of tau tangles, without the side effects of brain inflammation. 

"We devoted significant effort to address not only the anti-tangle effect but also safety of a phosphorylated-tau vaccine. This was done in order to identify early in the preclinical stage any potential hazard of this potential Alzheimer's therapy” said Hanna Rosenmann, Ph.D., head of the Laboratory of Molecular Neurogenetics, Department of Neurology, Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Kerem.

Food Cures?

University of California Los Angeles researchers along with researchers from the Human BioMolelcular Research Institute have found that a form of Vitamin D combined with a chemical found in the spice, curcumin may stimulate the body to remove amyloid beta.  That research is reported in the July issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.  

Curcumin is found in the curry spice, turmeric. Together with properties of vitamin D (D3), they may help stimulate the immune system to clear the brain of amyloid beta which forms plaque in the Alzheimer’s disease brain. 

Vitamin D is found in sunshine exposure and can be consumed as a supplement.

“We hope that vitamin D3 and curcumin, both naturally occurring nutrients, may offer new preventive and treatment possibilities for Alzheimer's disease," said Dr . Milan Fiala, study author and a researcher at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System.

The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University outlines some promising medical research being done involving curcumin.

The race is on to find a cure to the mind-robbing Alzheimer’s disease with dozens of drugs in Phase II and III clinical trials. Five million are living with it in the U.S. now. That number is expected to quadruple in the next few decades unless a cure can be found.  #

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