3 Sep 2016

Science: Alzheimer’s breakthrough

From This Way Up, 12:02 pm on 3 September 2016
Amyloid Beta

Amyloid Beta Photo: JUAN GAERTNER SCIENCE PHOTO LIBR JGT Science Photo Library

A new drug that seems to stop the progress of Alzheimer's Disease has been tested on patients in America.

Up to one third of us face the prospect of developing Alzheimer's Disease, a progressive brain disorder that affects our mental faculties, with memory loss often an early symptom.

The condition is caused by a build up in the brain of a toxic protein called beta amyloid. Scientists believe that it's the build up of this material that kills off nerve cells, leading to progressive mental deterioration. At present there are only a few therapies available and these all target the symptoms of Alzheimer's, rather than the underlying disease.

Now, writing in the journal Nature, scientist Jeff Sevigny of Biogen says an antibody called aducanumab has been  discovered that can clear beta amyloid out of the brain and stop the progress of the disease. In tests on a group of 165 patients in the US, those who received the antibody injections had significant reductions in beta amyloid levels in their brains a year later. Furthermore, symptoms seemed to advance more slowly in those on higher doses of the antibody.

If further trials are successful, then aducanumab will become the first Alzheimer's treatment that can slow and stop the spread of the disease.