In what has been described as a possible game changer for patients suffering Alzheimer's disease, an experimental drug aducanumab given once a month for a year to patients in a clinical trial was found to clear the brain of protein (amyloid) plaques which are believed to play a key role in disrupting cellular processes and nerve cell communication processes in the brain. These plaques are commonly seen in aging brains but Alzheimer’s patients tend to have much more of these plaques.
|One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease is the accumulation |
of amyloid plaquesbetween nerve cells (neurons) in the brain
The study included 165 participants divided into 4 groups and treated with an intravenous infusion of either aducanumab or a placebo for over 54 weeks. The 4 groups of patients received 4 different doses of the experimental drug and PET brain scans showed reduction in plaques at all doses and duration with the greatest reduction observed in the highest dose group.
Of course, the fact that the study involved just a handful of patients is something to be mindful of before making any firm conclusions, as well as how much this plaque reduction translates to cognitive benefit for the patient. The researchers are mindful of the fact that many other Alzheimer’s drugs have appeared promising but never lived up.
It is known that these plaques begin to build up in Alzheimer’s patients’ years before the onset of symptoms. It is therefore encouraging that the plaques in the patients observed to have taken 20 years to accumulate were removed in a 12 month period.