Trials of new Alzhemier drug targeting production of protein plaques in brain found effective

04 November 2016

A team from Merck Research Laboratories reported effective results of early human and animal trials of a drug called verubecestat, which targeted the production of protein plaques associated with the disease. 

In a study published Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine, team leader Matthew Kennedy, said, ''It's a summary of the discovery and early-stage profiling of what we hope is going to be a new therapeutic for Alzheimer's. It represents well over a decade of investment in this project by many, many scientists.''

However, definitive conclusions would not be able to be drawn till the results of a larger, ongoing phase III clinical trials to assess their efficacy, effectiveness and safety were available, but initial results were promising, according to experts.

Verubecestat, a BACE1 (Beta-site Amyloid precursor protein Cleaving Enzyme 1), inhibitor, is an enzyme involved in producing amyloid beta, a protein that clumps together, and forms plaques surrounding neurons that are the key hallmark of the disease. According to the amyloid hypothesis of Alzheimer, the accumulation of amyloid beta aggregates in the brain resulted in multiple biological events that led finally to neurodegeneration. 

The blocking of BACE1, could prevent the buildup of these clumps in the first place, it was hoped.

Meanwhile, in another study it had been suggested that subtle feelings of loneliness in older people might warn of impending Alzheimer's disease. 

Healthy seniors who had elevated brain levels of amyloid seemed more likely to feel lonely than people who had lower levels of amyloid, researchers found.

"For people who have high levels of amyloid -- the people truly at high risk for Alzheimer's -- they were 7.5 times more likely to be lonely than non-lonely," said lead researcher Dr Nancy Donovan, HealthDay News reported. Donovan is director of the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

Studies had long shown that people who remained socially active were less likely to develop dementia, Donovan said.

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