The search time for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease may have been reduced significantly following findings that two drugs already licensed and in use have been shown to stop brain degeneration in mice.
Attendees at the Alzheimer’s Society's annual research conference being held in Manchester, England, heard that the two drugs are already known to be safe and well-tolerated in people – potentially cutting years from the timeline for a medicine to reach Alzheimer patients.
Giovanna Mallucci, a clinical neuroscience professor from the University of Cambridge said: “It’s really exciting. They’re licensed drugs. This means you’d do a straightforward basic clinical trial on a small group of patients because these are not new compounds, they’re known drugs.”
She said scientists and researchers have chosen not to identity the two drugs to prevent Alzheimer’s patients using them before clinical trials to prove their effects in humans were completed. The drugs she said are currently used for non-dementia related diseases.
Before any human trials, scientists said a brain imaging study was crucial to prove the same faulty signal that the two drugs targeted in mice was responsible for degeneration of the neurological system and the memory loss it causes in Alzheimer’s.
“The big, burning question is what is the relevance for human disease.” said Mallucci. If the brain imaging study can take place quickly and if they showed a link, clinical trials could start "in a couple of years".
Scientists have estimated that delaying the Alzheimer's by five years would cut the number of deaths from the disease by 50 per cent.
“I have people in my clinics who come in with quality of life and are still able to converse, but over time they become dependent, unable to enjoy the company of their lifetime partners and that’s heartbreaking,” Mallucci said.
“Even delaying progress of Alzheimer’s by 10 years would have a massive effect. You have to re-adjust and understand that slowing Alzheimer’s would change the disease into something completely different and infinitely more acceptable to society.”