Rem­edy is front of mind

The West Australian - - NEWS - BRIGID O’CON­NELL

A trio of Chi­nese herbs is be­ing tested as the first po­ten­tial tar­geted treat­ment to slow the pro­gres­sion of a com­mon type of de­men­tia.

Vas­cu­lar de­men­tia is caused by stroke or dam­age to blood ves­sels in the brain and ac­counts for about a third of de­men­tia cases — more than 100,000 Aus­tralians.

There are no ap­proved treat­ments, only in­ter­ven­tions to re­duce risk fac­tors, and few clin­i­cal tri­als for the dis­ease.

But a com­bi­na­tion of gin­seng, ginkgo biloba and saf­fron is about to be tested on Aus­tralians with mild-to-mod­er­ate cases of the dis­ease af­ter a trial found it could im­prove cog­ni­tion and daily func­tion­ing fol­low­ing six months of treat­ment.

Chief in­ves­ti­ga­tor Den­nis Chang, from the NICM Health Re­search In­sti­tute at West­ern Syd­ney Uni­ver­sity, said given the brain was a com­plex or­gan, a po­ten­tial treat­ment for de­men­tia would need to tar­get the dis­ease in mul­ti­ple ways.

“We have looked at herbal reme­dies, not so much in the tra­di­tional form as a herbal con­coc­tion, but to look at iden­ti­fy­ing the po­ten­tial bioac­tive com­po­nents of them,” Pro­fes­sor Chang said.

“Many phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal medicines ini­tially come from plants and then we mod­ify them to in­crease the ef­fi­cacy.

“Ginkgo biloba is used for the man­age­ment of mem­ory. Gin­seng is re­garded as the king of herbs in Chi­nese medicine as it im­proves neu­rocog­ni­tion.

“The data sug­gests saf­fron can im­prove blood cir­cu­la­tion in the brain and has an­tide­pres­sant ef­fects, which is a com­mon symp­tom for de­men­tia pa­tients.”

The herbal for­mula, called Sailu­o­tong, was most re­cently pit­ted against a placebo in 325 pa­tients in China where it was found to im­prove daily func­tion in a num­ber of ways.

The phase III in­ter­na­tional trial will test the treat­ment over 12 months on a big­ger group of pa­tients with mild-to-mod­er­ate vas­cu­lar de­men­tia — 600 peo­ple in China and 240 peo­ple across 11 sites in Aus­tralia.

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