New studies have been showing some exciting results that hold promise for the effective treatment of Alzheimer’s dementia. One such study showed that infusion of an investigational drug cleared amyloid plaques—the tangled clumps of protein found in the neurons of Alzheimer’s patients—by stimulating the immune system. The study wasn’t powered to show if it had an effect on the symptoms of Alzheimer’s but larger studies are sure to follow.
Another study showed that ultrasound treatment (a painless delivery of ultrasonic sound waves) into the brains of mice with experimentally induced Alzheimer’s disease also cleared out amyloid plaques and further that 75% of the mice had a full restoration of their memory function. There were no adverse effects reported. Trials in humans are expected to start this year.
We’ve known for a while that people who take regular NSAID medications (drugs like Advil or Aleve) seem to have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s. This is thought to be due to the fact that brain inflammation plays a role in developing amyloid plaques and that if you reduce inflammation you may reduce the development Alzheimer’s. But a recent study was the first to show that one particular NSAID, mefenamic acid, reversed memory deficits in mice who had Alzheimer’s-like symptoms. Trials in humans are about to get underway.
Though none of these interventions are ready for prime time, they do show how decades of research is beginning to suggest interventions that might actually make a difference.