BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - More than 5.3 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease (AD), and according to the Alzheimer's Association, by mid-century there will be nearly a million new cases per year. University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) researchers are part of an international trial, testing new drugs that show great promise in slowing the progression of AD.
Alzheimer's is marked by the presence of amyloid plaques in the brain. Amyloid is a starchy like substance which, when abnormally deposited in the brain, interferes with normal communication between neurons. The current research focuses on a monoclonal antibody called bapineuzumab, which appears to have the capability to dissolve amyloid plaques and may even prevent them from forming in the first place.
"This is a large, multi-site study, with some 4,500 patients enrolled worldwide," said Cleveland Kinney, M.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurobiology and lead investigator of the study at UAB. "We're investigating whether bapineuzumab will improve cognition in patients who suffer from Alzheimer's disease by, potentially, dissolving these abnormally deposited amyloid plaques and hopefully altering one of the underlying causes of Alzheimer's disease."
UAB is the only study site in Alabama, one of 110 in the United States in the trial sponsored by two pharmaceutical companies, Elan and Wyeth.
"There is evidence to suggest that the amyloid plaques (senile plaques) interrupt the normal communication, or synapses, between brain cells," said Kinney. "If bapineuzumab proves to effectively dissolve plaques, it should allow for the return of normal synapses, which will hopefully mediate the effects of Alzheimer's disease."
Alzheimer's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by progressive loss of memory and cognitive function. It destroys brain cells, causing problems with memory, thinking, and behavior that are severe enough to affect everyday life.
Experts believe that early detection of Alzheimer's disease and early intervention with improved therapies provides the greatest opportunity to modify or halt disease progression. Most current therapies for Alzheimer's treat the symptoms associated with it and not the disease itself.
About the UAB Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology
The Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology provides a broad spectrum of psychiatric services in child/adolescent psychiatry, adult psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry and a high quality addiction recovery program. Geriatric psychiatry offers comprehensive psychiatric diagnosis and treatment for patients 65 and older. In addition to psychiatric treatment, the geriatric service also provides treatment for those suffering from disorders associated with aging.