Researchers are narrowing in on a new treatment for Alzheimer's disease. Regular infusions of plasma-derived anti-bodies appear to reduce levels of the brain plaques that cause the disease. The treatment also may improve thinking ability.
The buildup of beta-amyloid protein plaques in the brain is a characteristic of Alzheimer's disease. Scientists believe the toxicity related to this buildup is a major cause of the disease. Currently, there is no way to eliminate these plaques effectively.
In a study conducted by a team from New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, researchers gave eight patients who had mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease periodic infusions of a targeted antibody, immunoglobulin (IVIg). The antibody travels to the brain and removes beta-amyloid.
After six months of treatment, seven of the patients underwent cognitive testing. The tests showed the decline in cognitive function ceased in all seven patients; in six of the seven patients cognitive functioning actually improved.
"If these results are confirmed in larger, controlled trials, we might have a safe Alzheimer's treatment that is capable of clearing the amyloid protein away," says Dr. Marc E. Weksler, senior researcher.
An antibody product derived from human plasma, IVIg is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat conditions other than Alzheimer's.
Nonetheless, the researchers stress that it is too soon to describe IVIg as anything more than promising, and they do not recommend that doctors treat Alzheimer's patients with IVIg yet.
Preparations are underway for a larger, controlled phase II clinical trial of IVIg, the researchers say.
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