Dementia Research Wrap Up #4

Slide4Our latest Dementia Alliance International Dementia Research Wrap Up #4  for April 2015, generously provided and written by Dr Ian McDonald.

Thank you Ian.

Over the past few weeks there have been a few advances in relation to treating the pathological signs of dementia (in the brain). This means trying to get rid of those toxic proteins which cause brain cells to die and memory loss and other dementia related symptoms to occur. While this news is always exciting to hear, most of this research being reported on is in its earliest stages and some of the trials are yet to move from animal testing. So while small steps are being made, a long road is still ahead. I’ll give you a brief overview of three of these new trials recently reported on.

Research out of Australia has shown that an ultrasound scanning technique can reduce and remove amyloid beta plaques from the brains of MICE with Alzheimer’s disease. The results, published in the Journal Science Translational Medicine, showed that applying the ultrasound technique on mice with Alzheimer’s disease removed amyloid beta plaques from the brain, and in some cases, cleared the plaques completely. Treated mice were also found to perform better on a variety of memory tests, indicating that it may also reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Another lot of Australian research has provided evidence towards an infrared light therapy being able to treat Alzheimer’s disease. In this mouse study, published in the journal Alzheimer’s research and therapy, daily infrared light therapy was able remove and reduce the levels of toxic proteins and plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

So while both of these approaches have been able to break up the plaques which are considered responsible for Alzheimer’s disease onset – so far the results have only been seen in mice. The skulls of mice are much thinner than those of humans and thus the approach would need considerable modifications before clinical trials can be undertaken in humans. We’ll certainly keep posted to see how this research progresses.

Moving along a bit further, results were also recently released by a pharmaceutical company called Biogen showing that a drug called Aducanumab has had promising results as an Alzheimer’s disease treatment during a Phase 1b clinical trial.

So what is a Phase 1b study? They are intended to demonstrate ‘proof of concept’ and confirm a hypothesis, while also evaluating the safety, tolerability, and efficacy of the experimental treatment. If the results are promising, the researchers will then move into larger trials and longer term trials, known as Phase 2 and 3.

In this their analysis of the results, the researchers found that this drug was able to reduce amyloid plaque levels, and in turn slow down cognitive decline in a small number of people with early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. So with these results, the researchers will now move into larger and longer term phase 2 and 3 trials and assess further if any side effects might occur as a result of taking this treatment.

So while it can always be exciting to hear about an Alzheimer’s disease breakthrough it is important to delve further into the results and see exactly what they say. I would also recommend anyone wanting to participate in a research clinical trial to have a read of some information on our website around what’s involved when participating in a research trial – http://dementiaresearchfoundation.org.au/whats-involved-participating

To read about these studies in full have a look through our blog here – http://dementiaresearchfoundation.org.au/blog