Earlier this month, I provided a brief overview of what Alzheimer’s is and how it affects many people. If you've attended any of the numerous Alzheimer's Association walks, the information provided to you was pretty well-known. Now, I'd like to present a little of what’s out there pharmaceutically for those suffering from this brutal disease.
Since the 1980s and 90s there have only been a few successful treatments developed: Namenda, Exelon, and Aricept. What most people don’t realize is that these treatments only treat the problems associated with the disease, not the disease itself. Their mechanism of action simply serves to slow or alleviate gait, shuffling, and dementia issues so often associated with Alzheimer’s disease. In my previous blog, I pointed out that progression of Alzheimer’s directly correlates to the deterioration of the coating/insulation that surrounds the signal pathway in the brain. So, to actually slow or reverse the disease, a medication would have to target the breakdown of the myelin sheath (the technical name for the “coating/insulation”). This has not gone unnoticed.
Pharmaceutical companies have tried many routes and different chemicals with little success until, hopefully, now. I recently received word about two different medication types that have a lot of promise: monoclonal antibodies and BACE inhibitors. BACE inhibitors are being specifically designed and studied - by a few companies - to stabilize the deteriorating neural pathway coating by inhibiting a new enzyme that has been found to stimulate that breakdown. Monoclonal antibodies have been used for years in treatment of other diseases, but now are making headway in the treatment of Alzheimer’s. We need to keep our optimism at an appropriate level though since new medications take years of testing to be proven safe and efficacious, and a lot can happen in that time frame. For now, however, the future of Alzheimer's treatment looks bright!
For more information, or to find out what can be done in the fight on Alzheimer's disease, visit the Alzheimer's Association website.