Medical Moment: On the cutting edge of Alzheimer’s treatments

Published: Nov. 18, 2022 at 5:52 PM EST
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(WNDU) - More than 6,000,000 Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. By 2050, that number is projected to be 13,000,000.

There’s no cure, and so far, only one FDA-approved drug that stops the progression in some cases. But there are two cutting-edge treatments that researchers are hoping to bring from bench to bedside.

Deep brain stimulation or DBS. It’s been used to control symptoms in Parkinson’s patients, and people with essential tremors.

Now, researchers at UT Health San Antonio are testing DBS on Alzheimer’s patients by implanting wires and stimulating the fibers of the fornix, the part of the brain responsible for memory.

“By increasing the flow of information, in that track, we might improve the ability of a person to retain new information,” said Gabriel de Erausquin, MD, a neurologist at UT Health San Antonio.

Scientists are also studying a new therapy involving the whole exchange of blood. It may decrease amyloid plaques in the brain, which are believed to have a role in the development of Alzheimer’s. The researchers gave repeated blood transfusions to specially bred mice and found amyloid plaques decreased anywhere from 40 to 80 percent.

The shared scientific goal? Bringing basic science to human clinical trial.

“If we can prove efficacy for this, that doesn’t have any effective treatments now, it really will be a massive improvement in our toolbox to treat the disease,” Dr. Erausquin explained.

A disease that kills more Americans every year than breast and prostate cancer combined.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the future of Alzheimer’s Disease treatments includes a variety of medications alike to the treatments for many cancers or HIV.

New treatments being developed aim at microscopic clumps of beta-amyloid (plaques.) These are a defining sign of Alzheimer’s.

The approach to targeting these will be through recruiting out immune systems, stopping destruction, and blocking production.

In Summer of 2021, the Food and Drug Administration approved aducanumab as a potential treatment in some cases. It targets and removes amyloid plaques in the brain. Saracatinbi is being tested to prevent destruction in Alzheimer’s. The drug turned off proteins that made synapses work again when tested in mice.

Another drug studied to possibly treat Alzheimer’s called lecanemab, has also shown hope in treating future patients. A phase 3 clinical trial discovered that the medicine used delayed cognitive decline in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s by 27 percent. Human trials are afoot in many of these cases and researchers believe effective treatments will arise as many drugs go into trial in 2023.