New Treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease at this time. With that said, scientists and medical professionals of different types are optimistic that a cure for Alzheimer’s disease will be found, perhaps in not a too distant future. With that said, there is activity on a number of fronts in regard to the development of new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. In this article, we present some basic, essential information about potential new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

Research Aimed at Plaques

Research has demonstrated that a common trait among individuals with Alzheimer’s disease is the accumulation of plaques in certain parts of the brain. Specifically, people with Alzheimer’s have microscopic clumps of plaques technically known as beta-amyloid. Treatment and therapeutic research that is underway today is designed to address plaques. This research includes:

Immune System

One area of research in regard to plaques involves developing drugs designed to recruit a person’s immune system to prevent beta-amyloid from clumping into plaques. There is also work at drugs designed to get an individual’s immune system to remove beta-amyloid plaques that have formed. The goal is to get the immune system to help the body clear the beta-amyloid from the brain. Monoclonal antibodies mimic the antibodies your body naturally produces as part of your immune system’s response to foreign invaders or vaccines. (This medical technology has been used in the treatment of the novel coronavirus.)

In June 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced the approval of aducanumab for the treatment of some cases of Alzheimer’s disease. This is the first drug approved in the United States to treat the underlying cause of Alzheimer’s by targeting and removing amyloid plaques in the brain. The FDA approved the drug on the condition that further studies be conducted to confirm the drug’s benefit. Experts also need to identify which patients may benefit from the drug.

Preventing Destruction

Another line of research aimed at plaques is tasked with developing therapies that are designed to prevent brain destruction and memory loss. For example, saracatnib is a drug initially developed as a possible treatment for certain types of cancer. It is not being tested in regard to Alzheimer’s disease. 

In mice, the drug turned off a protein that allowed synapses to start working again, and the animals experienced a reversal of some memory loss. Human trials for saracatinib as a possible Alzheimer’s disease treatment are now underway.

Production Blockers

Finally, when it comes to treatments and therapies designed to address plaques in Alzheimer’s patients, production blocker research is underway. This research is designed to develop therapies that may reduce the amount of beta-amyloid formed in the brain. Research has shown that beta-amyloid is produced from a “parent protein” in two steps performed by different enzymes. Several experimental drugs aim to block the activity of these enzymes. They’re known as beta- and gamma-secretase inhibitors. 

Research Directed at Preventing Tau Tangling

Another underlying cause of Alzheimer’s disease is when what is identified as a vital brain cell transport system collapses because the tau protein twists into microscopic fibers. This produces what are known as tangles. Tangles impede brain functioning. This research is looking at ways to prevent the tau protein from forming tangles in people’s brains. At the present time, tau aggregation inhibitors and tau vaccines are currently being studied.

Research Involved in Reducing Inflammation

A symptom of Alzheimer’s is chronic, low-level brain cell inflammation. Research is underway to treat inflammatory processes at work in the brain of a person with Alzheimer’s disease. The drug sargramostim (Leukine) is currently part of that research. It is believed that the drug may stimulate the immune system to protect the brain from harmful proteins, resulting in a reduction in inflammation. 

Insulin Resistance Research

In a relatively new research area, scientists are studying the effects of insulin on the brain. This research focuses on brain cell function, and insulin changes in the brain that may be related to Alzheimer’s disease. It is important to emphasize that research in this area truly is in its infancy.

Research Involved With the Cardiovascular-Brain Connection

Evidence continues to mount that brain health is closely linked to cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) health. The risk of developing dementia appears to increase as a result of conditions that damage the heart or arteries. These include

  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • diabetes
  • high cholesterol

A number of studies are exploring how best to build on this connection. Strategies under investigation include the use of current drugs that treat heart disease risk factors may also benefit individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or reduce the risk of developing dementia.

There is ongoing research about the interaction between heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. This is being conducted on the molecular level to attempt to find new drug targets.

Finally and significantly, research suggests that lifestyle choices with known heart benefits may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease or delay its onset. These lifestyle choices include regular exercise and a heart healthy diet.

Research Into Hormone Treatment

There is some possible promise in regard to an early study pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease in women. Taking estrogen-based hormone therapy for at least a year during perimenopause or early menopause appeared to protect thinking and memory in women at a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Bear in mind that this is an early study and much more research needs to be done. 

Speeding Up the Development of Treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease

The pace at which treatments (and even a cure) for Alzheimer’s disease can seem painfully slow to many people. This certainly is understandable. 

Recognizing these frustrations, an alliance of pharmaceutical companies, governmental advisers, and nonprofit organizations has been formed known as the Coalition Against Major Diseases of CAMD. The CAMD is a first-of-its-kind partnership to share data from Alzheimer’s disease clinical trials, according to the Mayo Clinic. The CAMD has collaborated with the Clinical Data Interchange Standards Consortium to create data standards associated with Alzheimer’s research. Researchers anticipate that these data standards and the sharing of data from more than 6,500 study participants will speed development of more-effective therapies to aid in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

A specific timeframe in which a cure to Alzheimer’s disease will be found is impossible. Nonetheless, as progress towards therapies and treatments progress, the risk of suffering the worst symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease is likely to be reduced in a good many situations. In addition, the progression of the disease is likely to be slowed after an individual receives a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.