Drinking a milkshake-style medicine at breakfast seems to feed brain cells starved from Alzheimer's damage, researchers reported Monday. It is one of four promising experimental drugs poised for large-scale testing against the brain-destroying disease.
The milkshake drug, called Ketasyn, provides a dramatically
different approach to dementia. It hinges on recent research that
suggested diabetic-like changes in brain cells' ability to use
sugar for energy play a role in at least some forms of Alzheimer's.
Special fatty acids in Ketasyn offer an alternate food source to
rev up those hungry neurons, researchers told an international
Alzheimer's meeting in Washington on Monday.
In a study of 150
patients, adding Ketasyn to their regular medicines produced a
small but important boost in mental functioning - but only in
people who do not carry an Alzheimer's gene called ApoE4. Still,
that is about half of all patients.
"We see this as a co-therapy," not a way to stop Alzheimer's,
cautioned Dr Lauren Constantini, a former Harvard University
scientist now with the company Accera Inc., which is developing the
Indeed, to stop Alzheimer's brain decay, most scientists have
their hopes pinned on drugs that promise to prevent a sticky goo
called beta-amyloid from clogging patients' brains.
frustrating news on that front: The first of those amyloid blockers
to make it to large-scale, Phase III testing has hit a hurdle, and
scientists will have to wait until at least month's end to learn if
the much-anticipated drug Alzhemed works.
The problem is statistical, said lead researcher Dr Paul Aisen
of Georgetown University: Hospital-to-hospital differences in other
medication use among the study's 1 000 participants prevent an
immediate clear comparison of Alzhemer's role.
Working with the
Food and Drug Administration, researchers are adjusting for those
variations, Aisen told the US Alzheimer's Association's dementia
Stay tuned, he said. There are hints that Alzhemed-treated
patients fared better.
Other new drugs:
- Eli Lilly & Co. hopes to halt beta-amyloid formation by
blocking an enzyme called gamma secretase involved in its creation.
Among 51 patients given the still-unnamed drug, those who took
the highest dose had a 65 percent reduction of beta-amyloid in
their blood. The study did not last long enough to tell whether
their symptoms improved, too, but the drop was so big that Lilly
will begin a Phase III trial early next year to try prove the
"This is a robust effect," said Lilly researcher Dr Eric
Siemers. "How could you not do a Phase III study?"
-Also next year, scientists will begin a US study of an old
Russian antihistamine against Alzheimer's.
A study of 180 Russian
patients found the drug Dimebon improved mental functioning,
patients' ability to care for themselves and some other measures,
said Dr Rachelle Doody of the Baylor College of Medicine.
After a year of treatment, patients' mental functioning had
gotten no worse than when they started. Scientists think Dimebon
may have some capacity to save neurons from death, said Dr David
Hung, chief executive of the manufacturer, Medication Inc.
- The milkshake drug Ketasyn follows the principle that when
someone fasts, the body lives off stored fat. Ketasyn contains
fatty acids that the liver metabolizes into substances called
ketones, similar to what is produced during a fast. Brain cells can
use ketones in place of sugar for energy.
That also is similar to the high-fat, low-protein ketogenic diet
sometimes used for children with severe epilepsy. Manufacturer
Accera currently is hunting money for a Phase III study and
exploring different formulations for epilepsy and other brain
- Finally, Elan Corp. plans a Phase III trial this year that will
infuse patients with immune-system cells called antibodies to
attack the plaque that clogs their brains. Elan earlier tried using
a vaccine to spark patients' bodies to make their own antibodies
research halted when a handful of participants suffered serious
brain inflammation. But Monday, Elan presented evidence backing the
general approach: 4½ years after the ill-fated vaccine study, 17
patients still harbour those antibodies, and their Alzheimer's has
worsened much slower than that of their unvaccinated counterparts. – (HealthDayNews)