Each year thousands of people across the world are struck down with Alzheimer’s, the terrible disease that steals memories and causes significant behavioural changes.
Over the years medications have been created, claiming to ease symptoms of the disease and give patients the ability to hold onto their lives for a little longer.
Now, an exciting breakthrough has been made with scientists discovering a way to target the toxic particles in the brain related to Alzheimer’s before they take hold and destroy healthy cells.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge and Lund University in Sweden worked together to develop the first strategy to attack the cause of Alzheimer’s with hopes of creating a new drug to treat the disease by 2020.
Publishing their findings in the journal PNAS, the scientists claimed they have discovered the proteins in the brain that attack healthy cells and cause dementia, as well as a way to treat them.
“Until very recently scientists couldn’t agree on what the cause was so we didn’t have a target,” Professor Michele Vendruscolo explained. “As the pathogens have now been identified as small clumps of proteins known as oligomers, we have been able to develop a strategy to aim drugs at these toxic particles.”
In most cases, Alzheimer’s develops age with Vendruscolo explaining that the brain finds it difficult to remove the dangerous proteins that lead to the disease.
“It is like a household recycling system, if you have an efficient system in place then the clutter gets disposed of in a timely manner. If not, over time, you slowly but steadily accumulate junk that you don’t need. It is the same in the brain,” he said.
Now after much research, the team of scientists will work to develop a drug to attack the pathogens with clinical trials expected to begin in about two years time.
“With no treatments to slow or stop the diseases that cause dementia, it’s vital we improve approaches like this that could help refine the drug discovery progress and accelerate new treatments for people living with Alzheimer’s,” Vendruscolo said.
There have been many studies over the years on Alzheimer’s. Earlier this year, researchers released a new drug called BAN2401, which could change the way the condition is treated in the future.
Following a trial of 856 patients from Europe, Japan and the United States, 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.