Hope to halt dementia

Drug might rad­i­cally change out­look for peo­ple with Alzheimer’s

Saturday Star - - LIFESTYLE - | African News Agency (ANA) Reuters | African News Agency (ANA) Daily Mail

DEMENTIA is now the dis­ease we fear more than any other, even can­cer.

As Dr James Pick­ett, head of re­search at the Alzheimer’s So­ci­ety, says: “It is cur­rently the only one of the top 10 killers that we can’t cure, pre­vent or even slow down.”

But a new trial is un­der way of a drug, miri­desap, which, if suc­cess­ful, could rad­i­cally change the out­look for those af­fected with Alzheimer’s, the most com­mon form of dementia.

“Po­ten­tially the big­gest thing since sliced bread,” is how the man who de­vel­oped the drug, Pro­fes­sor Sir Mark Pepys, an im­mu­nol­o­gist and di­rec­tor of the Wolf­son Drug Dis­cov­ery Unit at Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don, de­scribes it.

Miri­desap tar­gets a protein called serum amy­loid P (SAP) component which is newly sus­pected to play a key role in Alzheimer’s.

Most of the drugs pre­vi­ously tested have tar­geted amy­loid plaques, mi­cro­scopic tan­gles of ab­nor­mal protein which are found wrapped around brain cells in great quan­ti­ties in those with Alzheimer’s.

The be­lief was that these tan­gles play a key part in the death of brain cells and the loss of mem­ory and cog­ni­tion that char­ac­terise the dis­ease.

SAP is be­ing tar­geted now as it has a dou­ble neg­a­tive ef­fect, de­stroy­ing brain cells as well as pro­tect­ing (harm­ful) amy­loid.

Pepys be­lieves that SAP is a vi­tal mech­a­nism in Alzheimer’s and might ex­plain why pre­vi­ous drugs that only tar­geted amy­loid have not worked. Miri­desap, it is hoped, will clear the amy­loid, too.

“Amy­loid should be cleared from the body by macrophages that eat up and de­stroy gen­eral de­bris from around the cells,” says Pepys.

“But SAP puts a pro­tec­tive coat­ing on amy­loid so it can’t be cleared.”

Miri­desap re­sem­bles the outer coat­ing of amy­loid so SAP locks onto it in­stead and, de­prived of its pro­tec­tive cover, amy­loid is then in­gested in the liver. A small trial in 2005 found that miri­desap cleared all SAP from the blood and also from the fluid around the brain in those with dementia.

The hope is that in the ab­sence of SAP, macrophages will then get to work on tack­ling the 100mg or so of amy­loid that ac­cu­mu­lates in the brains of peo­ple with Alzheimer’s.

The plan is to re­cruit 100 vol­un­teers with mild Alzheimer’s who will try the drug or a placebo for a year.

Those on the trial will be taught how to self-inject the drug three times a day.

Dur­ing that year the vol­un­teers will un­dergo mul­ti­ple tests in­clud­ing brain scans to check on any shrink­age, and blood tests to check on SAP lev­els.

Pepys stresses that it won’t be “some miracle cure, but what we hope is that it might halt the dis­ease”.

The drug is also be­ing tested in a sep­a­rate trial on those with amy­loi­do­sis – a rare po­ten­tially fa­tal dis­ease in which amy­loid builds up in or­gans

CON­TACTS CON­TAM­I­NA­TION

UK RE­SEARCHERS have con­firmed an up-tick in cases of Acan­thamoeba ker­ati­tis, an eye in­fec­tion that most of­ten af­fects contact lens wear­ers.

Contact lens users can avoid the in­fec­tion by wash­ing their hands when they han­dle their con­tacts.

AP

| through­out the body.

Clive Bal­lard, a pro­fes­sor of age-re­lated diseases at Ex­eter Univer­sity, be­lieves that in Alzheimer’s it may be that amy­loid is im­por­tant early on in the process and be­comes less so later.

This, he says, may ex­plain why pre­vi­ously amy­loid-re­duc­ing drugs have not shown much ef­fect.

And it is why he be­lieves that miri­desap may turn out to have a pre­ven­ta­tive role. |

A NEW drug in the pipe­line to treat dementia won’t be a ‘miracle cure’, but it may help halt the dis­ease.|

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