There are many innovative new approaches to Alzheimer’s research today. From new drugs that help improve memory, to medication that lowers beta amyloid (a hallmark indicator of AD in the brain), and even a possible immunosuppressant vaccine. Thus far, none of the research has resulted in a claim to fame for a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). Some experts believe the answer will be a type of “cocktail” designed to address the many facets of the disease. This approach would be similar to how current cancer and HIV treatment is managed. One exciting area of current research addresses the ability of a drug to target tau proteins.
What are Tau Proteins?
Tau are proteins that help the brain stabilize microtubules (the basic structural elements that allow for nutrient transportation in brain cells). Tau proteins are abundant in neurons of the central nervous system. In AD, these proteins become abnormally tangled. These twisted strands of tau protein eventually end up destroying the structure of the microtubules. Nutrients are no longer able to move freely to nourish brain cells-which eventually die. Once these abnormal tau proteins get out of control and become toxic, there appears to be a chain reaction which, over time, destroys the brain tissue. Studies have shown that toxic tau has the ability to move from one neuron to another. This may be the reason that in the late stages of AD, the adverse effects of the disease are seen throughout most of the brain. In the early stages, the memory center (hippocampus) is the primary area that is affected by AD.
Recent Clinical Studies
One research study is being conducted on a vaccine called AADvac1, which is thought to stimulate the body’s immune system to attack abnormal tau protein. Tau therapy is thought to be a cutting-edge treatment for AD. The research study will not be complete until February of 2019. This is a phase 2 clinical trial with 185 participants. In a phase 2 clinical trials, the study participants must be afflicted with the condition which the drugs are intended to treat. The goal of a phase 2 clinical trial is to accurately evaluate the drug’s dosage, efficacy and safety. This means that previous AADvac1 studies have shown some promise of effectiveness, but the jury is still out as to just how useful and safe the drug really is for long term public use.
“Tau therapy is a very interesting approach to Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Ronald Peterson, director of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, in a recent NBC News interview.
Future Alzheimer’s Research
According to Bill Thies, Ph.D., Senior Scientist in Residence, Alzheimer’s Association, “Despite the increasing momentum in Alzheimer’s research, we still have two main obstacles to overcome. First, we need volunteers for clinical trials. Volunteering to participate in a study is one of the greatest ways someone can help move Alzheimer’s research forward. Second, we need a significant increase in federal research funding. Investing in research now will cost our nation far less than the cost of care for the rising number of Americans who will be affected by Alzheimer’s in coming decades.” CLICK HERE to learn more about how you can involved in clinical trials.
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