Gammaglobulin treatment may alow Alzheimer's disease

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego Alzheimer's programme have begun a Phase III clinical trial testing a new approach to slowing down the progression of Alzheimer's disease using Intravenous Immune Globulin (IVIg), also known as gammaglobulin.

IVIg has been used to treat primary immunodeficiency disorders for more than 20 years, but is not currently approved for treating Alzheimer's, one of the leading forms of dementia.

The Phase III clinical trial is being led by Michael Rafii, MD, PhD, assistant professor of neurosciences at the UC San Diego School of Medicine and associate medical director of the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS), a nationwide consortium of institutions, based at UC San Diego and funded by the National Institute on Aging to spearhead clinical trials in the disease.

This study expands on promising results of a Phase II trial and is part of the final phase in studying IVIg as a potential treatment for Alzheimer's before seeking regulatory approval.

''Initial research in experimental models and patients suggest that IVIg, which contains naturally occurring human anti-amyloid antibodies, will defend the brain of Alzheimer's patients against the damaging effects of beta amyloid,'' said Rafii. ''If it does, giving IVIg to patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's may potentially slow the rate of progression of the disease.''

One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's pathology is an abundance of beta-amyloid plaque, thick deposits of proteins in the brain that are believed to play a role in nerve cell degeneration. While it is not yet known if beta amyloid plaques cause or are a byproduct of the disease, scientists are interested in finding ways to reduce the toxic effects of beta amyloid in the brain.