New Developments in Detecting and Treating Alzheimer’s

alzheimers-manEvery 70 seconds, someone develops Alzheimer’s disease. This startling figure from the Alzheimer’s Association underlines the desperate need for new tools to diagnose and treat this debilitating illness. Recent scientific developments are offering new hope for the estimated 5.3 million Americans who suffer from Alzheimer’s.  

A new drug has shown early promise in slowing the mental degradation that accompanies the disease. Researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York found that NIC5-15 stabilized the cognitive performance of patients with Alzheimer’s-related dementia in a six-week clinical trial. NIC5-15 is a natural compound that prevents the formation of beta-amyloid plaque, a sticky substance that can build up between brain cells.  Many in the medical field associate beta-amyloid plaque with the development of Alzheimer’s. The study was sponsored by the Minnesota-based Humanetics Corporation, which owns the rights to develop and commercialize NIC5-15. Phase IIB clinical trials are planned for later this year. 

Another group of researchers is taking a different approach to treating Alzheimer’s. In February, Genentech challenged the view that beta-amyloid plaque is responsible for the disease. Researchers at the San Francisco company believe that Alzheimer’s develops when the processes that clean up excess nerve cells and nerve fibers in a developing fetus are reactivated later in life. Genentech has already identified potential drug candidates, although it could be years before treatments are developed.   

On Sunday, Bayer announced that its Alzheimer’s marker florbetaben helped to successfully detect the disease in a Phase II study. Researchers injected patients’ brains with florbetaben (which highlights beta-amyloid deposits) under a PET scan. Florbetaden helped identify Alzheimer’s in 8 out of 10 study participants. And in January, researchers at the University of Miami announced the discovery of nine genes that are likely to raise the risk of Alzheimer’s.

A few of the many companies working to detect and/or treat Alzheimer’s include: Applied Neurosolutions, Accera, Zytentia, Lay Line Genomics, Avid Radiopharmaceuticals, Proteotech,  Envivo Pharmaceuticals, The Genetics Company, and ReGen Therapeutics.

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