Alzheimer’s is one of the cruellest diseases out there, robbing millions of people worldwide of their memory and cognitive function. In Australia, more than 300,000 are living with the condition that impacts memory loss, a change in behaviour and even depression.
While there’s currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, researchers are one step closer to being able to slow down the progress of the condition.
A new drug called BAN2401 from drug companies Biogen and Eisai has been developed, which could change the way the condition is treated in future. Following a trial of 856 patients from Europe, Japan and the United States with Alzheimer’s disease, the medication was shown to slow the progression of the illness.
Researchers discovered that a fortnightly injection was the most successful dose in the trial and reduced levels of amyloids – proteins in the brain that cause the disease. According to the data, 81 per cent of participants on this dosage saw amyloids disappear after 18 months. Interestingly, the group’s cognitive skills deteriorated at a 30 per cent slower rate than participants on a placebo in the same trial.
Despite the positive reactions from many, others say the research is not significant enough to get excited about yet. The Alzheimer’s Association in the United States said the studies conducted weren’t large enough to demonstrate cognitive benefits, but did say amyloid remains an important therapeutic target to pursue in Alzheimer’s disease.
Still, it said it is encouraged by the various approaches currently being explored to treat and prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
“The scientific community consensus is that we may need combination therapy in the future – that may include anti-amyloid approaches as well as other approaches to potential treatments that address multiple aspects of the disease, and include both drug and lifestyle interventions,” it said in a statement. “The global urgency to better treat and prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias is higher than ever, and growing.
It said it must expand its therapeutic targets and ideas including drugs, non-drug therapies and even lifestyle factors.
Meanwhile, other studies have been conducted in recent times to figure out if any other factors may increase the risk of someone developing the cognitive condition. Research published in the PNAS Journal found people who suffer from insomnia or struggle to get a good night’s sleep could unintentionally be increasing their risk of Alzheimer’s. The study found sleep deprivation increases levels of beta-amyloid in the brain, which is a major Alzheimer’s risk.
Meanwhile, research presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society earlier this year found that Betanin, a compound found in beetroot that gives the fruit its distinct purple colour, could also slow the accumulation of misfolded proteins in the brain. It is hoped the link between beetroot and Alzheimer’s may one day lead to the creation of drugs and medication that would make the long-term and devastating effects of Alzheimer’s less severe.