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New Alzheimer's drug is being tested in human clinical trials
The first patient study to test a new drug to cure Alzheimer's disease is currently underway. It tests an approach to humans that has been in development for 40 years. The active ingredient is designed to remove a certain protein from the brain and thus stop the disease from progressing.
Researchers led by University College London (UCL) are currently starting a clinical trial that could revolutionize the treatment of Alzheimer's. The new drug removes a protein called Serum Amyloid P-Compont (SAP) that contributes to the formation of harmful deposits in the brain or even directly triggers cell death from brain cells. SAP are suspected of causing Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's is a growing problem
As the UCL experts report, Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia. Typical symptoms include memory loss, difficulty in thinking and solving problems, and speech disorders. Around 35 million people worldwide are affected by Alzheimer's. According to calculations, this number will double in 20 years if no cure is found.
Past research work unsuccessful
Despite investments worth billions and numerous studies, science has not been able to develop an effective treatment in the past 20 years. Many pharmaceutical companies have withdrawn from research. "After a long struggle to fund our different approach to a possible treatment for Alzheimer's disease, it's exciting to finally start clinical trials," development director Professor Sir Mark Pepys said in a press release.
Contrary to many previous researches, there is no financial interest behind the approach. This non-commercial study is fully funded by the UK's National Institute for Health Research. "We urgently need new drug targets for Alzheimer's disease and this study must therefore be completed as soon as possible," emphasizes study leader Professor Martin Rossor.
How is the new approach different?
As the researchers explain, almost all the drugs tested so far have focused on abnormal protein accumulations called amyloid plaques and Alzheimer's fibrils. These deposits are always present in the brain of Alzheimer's patients. Past research aimed to prevent or remove these deposits. In 40 years of research, the team led by Pepys and Rossor has identified another protagonist, amyloid, which contributes to the formation of the deposits.
Can Alzheimer's Protein Stop Taking a Protein?
In the study “Depletion of serum amyloid P component in Alzheimer's Disease”, the scientists found that a protein called serum amyloid P component (SAP) is always associated with amyloid fibers in the body. Based on these findings, they developed the drug Miridesap, which SAP removes from the blood. The researchers were also able to prove that SAP has a harmful effect on brain cells, regardless of Alzheimer's disease. The team was able to detect an increased number of SAP proteins in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. "It is therefore also possible that SAP directly causes the death of brain cells and thus triggers dementia," the researchers sum up.
This is how the new drug Miridesap works
According to the scientists, the protein SAP is not produced in the brain. Instead, it gets into the brain through the blood. Miridesap removes the protein from the blood and as a result, it is no longer available in the brain. No side effects are known so far.
A promising approach
In the clinical test now starting, Miridesap is supposed to show what it can really do. 100 patients with early Alzheimer's should receive the drug over a year. At the same time, changes in brain structure and function are documented. A duration of approximately three years is planned. (vb)