A trial in Australia to reduce the impact of Alzheimer’s disease is producing results.
Most clinical trials to date have been aimed at removing or slowing a build-up of sticky plaque, known as beta amyloid, which strangles healthy brain cells and destroys memory function.
While scientists are now investigating everything from gut health to hormone imbalance and insulin resistance, a trial in Melbourne using the experimental drug Anavex 2-7 to slow the build-up or remove plaque is producing results.
Associate professor Stephen Macfarlane, head of clinical services at HammondCare, a dementia specialist aged care provider, says that despite intense efforts globally to uncover a way to remove the plaque, the failure rate has been nearly 100 per cent. Until now.
He is leading the second phase of the trial using Anavex 2-73, which appears to remove amyloid plaque but also preserves nerve cells and reduces inflammation in the brain.
Dr Macfarlane said that some people who had participated in the first phase of the trial had made remarkable recoveries.
“We’ve had people who previously had been accomplished painters, artists, piano players, who resumed those activities,” he said.
“Those sorts of improvements are much more meaningful, in my view, than a two-point improvement on a memory test because they illustrate really life-changing benefits to a person.”
He said the trial was using a completely different approach and a different scientific method.
“There’s no point flogging the same dead horse,” he told abc.net.au.
“If you have too many failed attempts, the drug companies back out of drug development and don’t pursue it.
“The number of people living with dementia will double in the next 20 years if we don’t do anything.”
In addition to the Alzheimer’s trial, Anavex has received approval for trialling the drug with Parkinson’s disease and dementia patients.
Professor Ralph Martins, an Alzheimer’s researcher from Macquarie University, is one of a group of scientists who believe plaque could be a symptom rather than a cause of Alzheimer’s.
“What hormones do is basically suppress the production of this amyloid,” he said. “In men, it’s testosterone, and in women, it’s oestrogen. Once we get older, our testosterone and oestrogen fall, and that’s when the amyloid starts rising.”
He is conducting trials using shots of testosterone and fish oil supplements to see if those substances could stop plaque from forming.
Do you closely follow the progress in Alzheimer’s research? Have you participated in a trial?