Wednesday, July 11, 2012

1 Month Until Alzheimer's Cure?

We're about to find out within 1 month if 3 new drugs being tested will yield any results in slowing the onset of Alzheimer's.  We will know within a month about 2 of the drugs, and later in the year the results of the third drug will be posted.

These 3 drugs are practically the "last men standing"  in late-stage trials after more than a decade of failed attempts to halt the mind robbing disease.  If these drugs don't work, experts say drug companies may pull out of the field in frustration and leave the 35 million world-wide with dementia with little hope.

Neurofibrillary Tangles                                  Beta-amyloid plaques

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia.  5 million people have it in the U.S., and 27 million have it worldwide.  The cause and progression of the disease are not well understood, but are thought to be related to neurofibrillary tangles and beta-amyloid plaques.  There is rapid degeneration of  the brain that eventually leads to death.  The average life expectancy after you have been diagnosed is 7 years.

Comparison of normal-aged brain (left) with the brain of an Alzheimer's victim (right).

The interesting thing about these drugs is that they are not drugs in the traditional sense, they are antibodies (proteins made by the bodies immune system) designed to clear amyloid plaques in the brain.  Scientists aren't even sure that amyloid even causes Alzheimer's, or that by removing it, symptoms will improve in those who have the disease, but there have been some hopeful signs that they are on the right track.

Everyone in the field is holding their breath in anticipation that something good will come of these results.  Even a small effect will mean huge success, because that will mean the drug is working.

There has not been a drug made that has even helped symptoms in the past 9 years...let's all cross our fingers!