Researchers at Georgetown University, in Washington DC, tested an antibody called PFA1 in mice that had been bred with Alzheimer’s symptoms. The antibody was designed to clear amyloid, a protein that builds in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. People in the later stages of the disease tend to have more amyloid than those in the early stages.
Although PFA1 reduced the amount of amyloid in the brain, mice that had more amyloid in their brains at the start of the study were more likely to show signs of inflammation after they were treated.
A number of clinical trials are currently testing treatments that aim to clear amyloid from the brain, and some trials have previously been stopped after patients showed signs of inflammation in the brain. These results, which were presented at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting, suggest that new drugs in development would need to be given as early as possible to avoid adverse side effects.
Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:
“This study adds to increasing evidence suggesting that an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease will need to be given early to have a positive effect. Although this particular drug was not designed for use in people, we would need to see large-scale clinical trials before we can know whether any new drugs could benefit people with Alzheimer’s, and we’ll need to test them early. We are still hamstrung by a lack of accurate early detection for Alzheimer’s, a major obstruction to trialling new treatments effectively. Research into diagnosis is crucial if potential new treatments are to have the best chance of success.
“We already know that inflammation may play a role in Alzheimer’s disease, and it will be important to follow this up. If we can understand what happens in the brain as Alzheimer’s progresses, we stand a better chance of being able to intervene. Research is the only answer to dementia, yet funding for dementia research lags far behind other serious diseases. We urgently need to invest in research if we are to make a real difference to people’s lives.”
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