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Scientists develop a Drug likely to benefit people with Alzheimer’s Disease

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FILE - An image shows activity in a human brain. Scientists have developed a drug capable of sweeping away abnormal protein clumps in the brain which are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. VOA

Washington, Jan 27, 2017: Scientists have developed a drug they hope will benefit people with Alzheimer’s disease, which afflicts an estimated 44 million people around the world. The new compound sweeps away abnormal protein clumps in the brain which are a hallmark of the neurodegenerative disorder.

In a study reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers describe how a synthetic drug, called antisense oligoneucleotide, reduced the production and in some cases cleared clumps of tau in the brain.

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Tau bundles are one of the hallmarks of the disease, along with beta amyloid deposits, another destructive protein.

By stopping the formation of tau, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, found they could extend the lives of mice that were bred to have collections of human tau in their brains.

Lead author Sara DeVos said scientists saw an improvement in their condition.

“So these mice die earlier than normal. So when we treat with our drug, the mice live longer and we can also prevent neurons from dying. So if we give this drug, the neurons will no longer die as a result of these tau bundles,” said DeVos

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The investigators also tested the compound in monkeys and saw positive results.

FILE – Patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia are seen during a therapy session. Alzheimer’s afflicts an estimated 44 million people around the world. VOA

Human testing expected soon

Antisense oligneucleotide targets the genetic instructions for building tau. The molecule binds to messenger RNA, which carries out the DNA blueprint for life, preventing tau from being produced. The drug can be made to target RNA for destruction of any protein, said scientists.

Tim Miller, a professor of neurology at Washington University and senior author of the study, hopes the drug, developed with Ionis Pharmaceuticals, will soon be tested in humans with Alzheimer’s disease.

“The most exciting and most interesting … is to apply this to people who we presume have abnormal tau to test the hypothesis whether lowering tau in those people will be of benefit to those people,” he said.

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Other types of antisense oligoneucleotides have been approved by U.S. regulators and are being used to treat the neurodegenerative disease muscular dystrophy and spinal muscular atrophy. The compound is in clinical trials for Huntington’s disease and ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Because tau deposits are only a piece of the puzzle that causes Alzheimer’s, the investigators envision using the drug with other treatments, also in development.

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, which primarily strikes senior adults, leading to a decline in mental functioning and eventually death. (VOA)

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Researchers Develop New Test to Detect Alzheimer’s Disease Even Before the Symptoms Occur

Now, new clinical studies with test participants in very early stages of the disease can be launched

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In Alzheimer's disease, patients start losing memory. Pixabay

Researchers have developed a new test that could help doctors detect Alzheimer’s disease eight years before the first symptoms occur.

Using current techniques, Alzheimer’s disease, the most frequent cause of dementia, can only be detected once the typical plaques have formed in the brain.

At this point, therapy seems no longer possible. However, the first changes caused by Alzheimer’s take place on the protein level up to 20 years sooner.

“Once amyloid plaques have formed, it seems that the disease can no longer be treated,” said study co-author Andreas Nabers from Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany.

In Alzheimer’s patients, the amyloid beta protein folds incorrectly due to pathological changes long before the first symptoms occur.

A team of researchers headed by Klaus Gerwert from Ruhr-University Bochum successfully diagnosed this misfolding using a simple blood test. As a result, the disease could be detected approximately eight years before the first clinical symptoms occur.

A lady suffering from Alzheimer’s. Flickr

But experiments showed that the test was not suitable for clinical applications as the test provided false positive diagnoses for nine per cent of the study participants.

In order to increase the number of correctly identified Alzheimer’s cases, the researchers have now introduced the two-tier diagnostic method.

To this end, they use the original blood test to identify high-risk individuals. Subsequently, they add a dementia-specific biomarker, namely tau protein, to run further tests with those test participants whose Alzheimer’s diagnosis was positive in the first step.

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If both biomarkers show a positive result, there is a high likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease, said the study published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring.

“Through the combination of both analyses, 87 of 100 Alzheimer’s patients were correctly identified in our study,” Gerwert said.

“Now, new clinical studies with test participants in very early stages of the disease can be launched,” Gerwert added. (IANS)