Despite potential breaththroughs in Alzheimer's disease research, a cure has remained out of reach.
But researchers at the Cleveland Clinic have presented findings on an experimental drug they say could offer new hope. The drug, called NTRX-07, was used in animal studies and appears to have diminished some of the effects that Alzheimer's has on the brain.
When someone has Alzheimer's disease, his or her brain produces too much of a protein called anyloid plaques. These plaques cause inflammation of the brain that damages neurons. Eventually, the damage is so severe it affects memory and many other functions.
The researchers say NTRX-07 appears to prevent much of this inflammation from occurring, and even preserves the neurons and regenerative brain cells. Lead researcher Dr. Mohamed Naguib, a physician anesthesiologist in the Department of General Anesthesiology at the Cleveland Clinic, says the power of NTRX-07 lies in its specific targeting.
Targets the disease, not the symptoms
“NTRX-07 uses a different mechanism than many other Alzheimer’s drugs currently available, as it targets the cause of the disease, not just the symptoms,” Naguib said.
The researchers made their discovery while testing NTRX-07 as a painkiller, treating other types of inflammation in the body. It worked so well at blunting inflammation that they decided to test it on mice that had been bred to have the kinds of brain issues seen in Alzheimer's patients.
The researchers found that the drug improved the body's ability to remove harmful amyloid plaques and improved memory function. They say it has the added benefit of increasing levels of a protein called SOX2, which they say helps new brain cells develop.
The new drug is expected to enter clinical trials on humans next year, starting with a Phase 1 trial, to check for safety. The Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation has put up $1.7 million to support the developers as they continue to test the drug. The Alzheimer's Association is spending $700,000 to support the Phase 1 trials.
The Alzheimer's Foundation estimates as many as 5.1 million Americans may have Alzheimer's disease. Since age is the main risk factor, there are fears of many more cases as the huge Baby Boom generation enters old age.