What's next for Alzheimer's research?
An estimated 5.8 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. As the millions of patients and caregivers around the country know too well, there is not a treatment option that slows or stops disease progression.
Recently, several large pharmaceutical companies have pulled out of Alzheimer's research after failed clinical trials. While those results were disappointing to say the least, smaller start-ups and academic labs have taken the baton and are now researching innovative new approaches.
Inflammation and Alzheimer's disease
One path researchers are exploring involves the role of inflammation in Alzheimer's disease.
An unpublished analysis appeared to show that a drug called Enbrel, approved to treat inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis, reduced the risk of developing Alzheimer's by 64 percent. Humira, a drug marketed by AbbVie also approved for those conditions, appeared to have a similar effect.
The companies that make these drugs ultimately decided that there was not enough statistically significant information to pursue this research, but these initial findings may offer a clue towards how an anti-inflammatory approach may be an option for Alzheimer's treatment.
The role of genes in Alzheimer's disease
Another area of research is exploring the potential of genetic therapies. Researchers have already identified several genes associated with Alzheimer's disease that may offer valuable information for treating the disease.
Recent advances in human genome mapping are making it possible to target specific genes more precisely. Several biotech companies are looking into treatments that suggest that Alzheimer's research could follow cancer research in using immune system advances to fight disease.
Other drug repurposing projects for Alzheimer's
In addition to researching the potential benefit of drugs like Humira, drugs for treating a range of diseases may have a chance at a second life treating Alzheimer's.
IntelGenx, a company in Quebec, is running a clinical trial for Alzheimer's disease on an already-approved asthma drug called montelukast. The drug targets a receptor in the brain similar to one involved in breathing. The drug showed benefit in the brains of mice.
Researchers at the Rocky Mountain Alzheimer's Disease Center are conducting research on the drug Leukine, used to treat radiation poisoning, in treating Alzheimer's.
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