A type of antibody treatment has shown positive effects for slowing the rate of cognitive decline in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

While the hunt for a cure for dementia is a constant mission for today’s scientists, they might have moved that bit closer thanks to studies of a new drug, which may help to slow down the rate of decline in someone with Alzheimer’s disease.

The drug, called Solanezumab, is an exciting development because it’s the first one to actually try and treat the cause of the condition, rather than the symptoms.

It works by attacking the amyloid plaques which are a key cause of Alzheimer’s disease. It is the formation of these plaques between the brain’s nerve cells which causes damage and eventually causes the death of the brain cell and symptoms of confusion and memory loss.

The antibody was created by injecting mice with amyloid protein so they produced antibodies, then taking the antibody-producing cells and modifying their DNA to make “humanised” antibodies, which could then be given to patients.

The company that created the drug, Eli Lilly, has been conducting research into Solanezumab for a few years, but this is the first time they’ve received such a positive result from their studies.

The research analysed patients with mild Alzheimer’s and found the drug could cut the rate of the disease’s progression by about 34%. This would suggest that the amount of cognitive decline normally seen in 18 months would take 24 months with the drug.

However, it’s worth noting that the best results were gained from people who took the drug and were only in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s, and the effect was not seen in those in the more advanced stages of the disease.

Plus, these are very early findings, presented during the International Alzheimer’s conference in the US, and the drug research still needs to be assessed and published in a peer-reviewed journal for it to really be taken seriously.

After a decade of no new therapies for dementia, today’s news is an exciting step forward.
Dr Doug Brown, Alzheimer's Society

Drug company Eli Lilly are now carrying out further studies, the results of which should be out at the end of 2016.

Dr Doug Brown, Alzheimer’s Society’s Director of Research and Development, said,

‘Today's findings strongly suggest that targeting people in the earliest stages of Alzheimer's disease with these antibody treatments is the best way to slow or stop Alzheimer's disease.

‘These drugs are able to reduce the sticky plaques of amyloid that build up in the brain, and now we have seen the first hints that doing this early enough may slow disease progression.

‘After a decade of no new therapies for dementia, today’s news is an exciting step forward. We will have to wait for the ongoing trials to finish to know the full risks and benefits of these drugs. If they are positive, these drugs will be the first identified to directly interfere with the disease process and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.’

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