Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham are conducting a clinical trial of a new investigational drug that may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, which afflicts more than 5.4 million Americans — a number projected to triple by 2050. UAB investigators want to enroll people ages 50-88 with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease; call 205-934-2484 for more information on participating.
Alzheimer’s is marked by the presence of amyloid plaques in the brain. Amyloid is a starchy-like substance that when abnormally deposited in the brain interferes with normal communication between neurons. The research focuses on a monoclonal antibody called bapineuzumab that appears to dissolve amyloid plaques and may even prevent them from forming.
“This is a large, multi-site study, with some 4,500 patients enrolled worldwide,” said Cleveland Kinney, M.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurobiology in the UAB School of Medicine and lead investigator of the study at UAB. “We’re investigating whether bapineuzumab will improve cognition and memory in patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease by dissolving abnormally deposited amyloid plaques, thereby altering one of the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s disease.”
A second component will evaluate the effect of bapineuzumab on genes that are suspected to play some role in the development of Alzheimer’s.
“If bapineuzumab proves to effectively dissolve plaques, it should allow for the return of normal synapses, which hopefully will mediate the effects of Alzheimer’s disease,” Kinney said.
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by progressive loss of memory and cognitive function. It destroys brain cells, causing problems with memory, thinking and behavior that are severe enough to affect everyday life. The Alzheimer’s Association predicts more than 16 million Americans will be diagnosed with the disease by 2050.
Experts believe that early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and early intervention with improved therapies provides the greatest opportunity to modify or halt disease progression. Current therapies for Alzheimer’s treat the symptoms associated with it and not the disease itself.