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Researchers Find Promising Alzheimer’s Treatment

 
 

 

 
 
Scientists at the Institute for Neurological Research in Los Angeles have found a promising new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease that appears to produce significant improvement in some patients. The treatment improves brain cell communication within minutes by injecting a drug called etanercept into the neck.
 
 
Alzheimer’s charities and other organizations say although current treatments can slow the disease, there is a desperate need for research to develop more effective treatments.
Doctors in California devised a novel approach of injecting the anti-arthritic drug etanercept into the neck, and then tilting the patient to promote blood flow into the brain. About 50 patients are currently being treated at the private clinic, and doctors

 


 
 
report a response rate of about 90%, typically within minutes.
Some patients have been taking etanercept for more than three years. Doctors report week-by-week improvements with each dose, with a plateau after about three months.
Lead researcher Professor Edward Tobinick told BBC News, "What we see is an improvement in their ability to think and calculate, their memory improves, their verbal ability improves, they find words easier, they seem happier, and we often also see an improvement in gait in those patients whose gait is affected."
But he cautioned that patients did not return to normal.

An edited video clip provided by the clinic showed 82-year old Marvin Miller, who frowns and mumbles unintelligibly when a nurse asks him a series of basic questions,
In the video, Mr. Miller fails to recognize common objects such as a pencil and a bracelet.
Shortly thereafter he receives an injection of entanercept, and five minutes later can be seen greeting and embracing his visibly shocked wife, claiming he had not seen her in years.
In a separate interview supplied by the clinic, Mr. Miller’s wife describes his improvements a month later, saying her husband now made sense 90% of the time, compared with none of the time prior to treatment.
Etanercept has been around for some time, and is widely used to treat arthritis, blocking a chemical called tumor necrosis factor-alpha, or TNF, which causes pain and swelling in the joints. TNF may also affect the way brain cells communicate with one another, and could be a partial cause for Alzheimer’s advance.
Researchers believe delivering etanercept into the brain via a neck injection allows the drug to block the disruption caused by TNF.
However, many experts remain skeptical, as the numbers involved in the study are very small and there has never been a placebo-controlled study.
But Dr Suzanne Sorensen, head of research at the Alzheimer's Society, spoke the growing interest in the new approach.
"We haven't heard any realistic accounts of people improving that much. And that is why when we first heard about it in January I didn't really believe it to be honest,” she told BBC News.
"But we have now seen film footage of people improving remarkably very soon after having been given the drug and many more people have now been treated with this drug. So I think it is the time to run a small clinical trial," she said.
Southampton University Professor Clive Holmes said he was willing to take this on once funding was secured.
"I think the evidence that's coming through from basic science would suggest to me that there is now a point at which it's worth giving these drugs a trial to see if there is any evidence on a larger scale basis,” he said, in an interview with BBC News.
 
     
 

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