New drug 'could tackle Alzheimer's plaques'

14 December 2015 09:22

A drug could potentially dissolve plaques that build up in Alzheimer's patients

A drug could potentially dissolve plaques that build up in Alzheimer's patients

A pill that dissolves the harmful plaques that cause Alzheimer's disease could be a step nearer after animal trials proved successful.

When scientists in South Korea added the new drug to the drinking water of affected mice, protein deposits on their brains were broken down.

Memory and learning also improved in the animals, which were genetically engineered to develop symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.

Experts say this new development looks promising, especially for the treatment of people at risk from inherited forms of the disease.

But they warn that much more work is needed before the drug, called EPPS, can be tested on humans.

Dementia is a worry for many families, but those with the condition can still enjoy trips abroad with the help of Alzheimer's travel insurance.

Build-up of plaques

The way EPPS works is unclear, but it is believed to dissolve the amyloid beta plaques that build up in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, so they can be wiped out.

However, it might only be effective before clinical symptoms appear, according to the research team, led by Dr YoungSoo Kim from the Korea Institute of Science and Technology in Seoul.

Amyloid accumulation is believed to occur first, leading on to other changes such as the formation of "tangles" of tau protein within nerve cells that actually trigger the effects of Alzheimer's.

Findings welcomed

Dr Frances Edwards, a reader in neurophysiology at University College London, stressed that most people with Alzheimer's disease are only diagnosed after the appearance of tau tangles and "considerable loss of brain tissue".

Commenting on the findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, Dr Edwards says that if Alzheimer's is caught before tau tangles occur, an amyloid-removing drug might stop it in its tracks.

Dr Edwards added a cautionary note, saying that more tests need to be done, but for people with the rare inherited forms where Alzheimer's disease can be predicted long in advance, the drug could be "very interesting".

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