Following recent research at the University of Cambridge, scientists have discovered two existing licensed drugs which may help to restore protein production in the brain and slow down the its degeneration. The drugs, which were tested on mice, were shown to halt brain degeneration, giving rise to the possibility of finding a cure for Alzheimer’s. The results of the study were presented at the annual research conference of the Alzheimer’s Society which was held recently in Manchester, and were said to be ‘hugely promising’ as they used medicines which have already been deemed safe, and which are well tolerated by humans.
The study was headed up by a professor of clinical neuroscience, Giovanna Mallucci, who expressed her excitement at the findings, particularly as the drugs used were already known and approved, albeit for conditions unrelated to dementia. So far, Mallucci and her team have chosen not to identify the drugs to ensure that patients don’t try to use them before further clinical trials have been carried out to test their efficacy.
Their findings support a previous study carried out two years ago which showed that brain cell death in mice could be stopped by switching off a faulty signal in the brain which prevented the production of new proteins. However, this research was based around a compound that had many side-effects, including diabetes and weight loss, meaning that it could not be used in humans. During Mallucci’s study, hundreds of licensed compounds were screened in order to find something that could protect the brain but which was also safe. This is why this research has proved so exciting, as the two drugs used are known to be entirely harmless to humans.
Prior to further trials, the scientists intend to carry out brain imaging to confirm that the faulty signal found in mice is also responsible for the neurodegeneration and memory loss found in patients with Alzheimer’s. While there is a wealth of evidence to suggest this is the case, the team will need to undertake special scanning procedures to ensure that what happened during the mice trials, also happens in humans. Once the scanning experiments have been conducted and a link is confirmed, clinical trials could follow very quickly.