Hive Health Media

A Ray of Hope For Future Alzheimer’s Sufferers

A new, early intervention Alzheimer’s treatment drug, designed by Genentech Inc. is to be medically tested on people with a particular genetic makeup. This genetic makeup makes it 100% sure that they will contract Alzheimer’s and probably from an early age. The people involved are a family in Colombia that has a mutation in the family DNA, that is both very rare and an inevitable marker of the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Often at an age as young as 40.

The trial is under the auspices of the federal health authorities and President Obama’s national Alzheimer’s strategy. It was announced last week by the National Institutes of Health. At the end of the five-year trial, the hope is that, Alzheimer’s in the subject family will be blocked if not eliminated, and the treatment will become an effective way to halt the advance of Alzheimer’s, if not ultimately curing it. The aim is to do this by 2025. The disease that is a progressive loss of thinking ability, and short-term memory has so far frustrated all efforts to pin down causes and to develop effective therapies.

Now that Americans are living longer and the baby-boomer population bulge ages, the number of Alzheimer cases is predicted to rise to nearly 8 million by the third decade of this century. It is currently at nearly 5.4 million.

Genentech Inc. is owned by Roche, the pharmaceutical giant and the trial will cost $100 million. The researchers are out of the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix, but the most important people in all this are the 300 who are selected from the 5000 or so extended family members in and around Medellin, which is in Antioquia, an area of Colombia in the Andes. It will be a first study of its kind using people certain to contract Alzheimers. Some of the chosen subjects will be free of the mutation, and since they do not wish to know that they have the target genetic code, they will be ‘blind’ control participants taking a placebo. They should be chosen and prepared to start the trial by the middle of next year.

The modern consensus on the probable cause of Alzheimer’s disease is that it is excess protein. This protein, named beta amyloid, builds up like plaque on cells in an area of the brain gradually spreading and killing cells. The drug in this trial contains ‘crenezumab’, an antibody that fights the plaque formation process. According to Genetech, this treatment has fewer side effects and was most effective in early trials.

The preventive trial is believed to be the most effective way to test both the amyloid theory of Alzheimers and to help the Colombian family. Dr. Francisco Lopera at the university of Antioquia will collaborate closely with the Genetech team. It was he who first identified the genetic mutation that guaranteed Alzheimers in his patients. There is a $16 million federal grant, and some donated funds but the bulk of the costs of the trial will be met by the drug company.

Claire Al-Aufi is a contributing author for Hive Health Media who provides updates on health and fitness news.

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