The Search for Alzheimer’s Drug has a Long Road Ahead

Nothing is more painful than slowly finding yourself losing your memory, health and your very own personality. The agony of slowly disintegrating and that sinking realization is too painful to be described in words.

Affecting over 48 million people internationally as of 2015, Alzheimer’s disease slowly breaks down the mind and body of the patient. And the future is disconsolate for now – the cure has yet to be found.

Alzheimer’s is a chronic neurological disease and is the leading cause of dementia, accounting close to 70 percent of total cases. It is characterized by slow disintegration of the brain, affecting both neurological and physical functions of the body.

Alzheimers condition

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s

The physical and mental condition of the patient worsens over time, with symptoms such that include

  • Short Term Memory Loss: The patient has trouble recalling recent events.
  • Deteriorating Linguistic Capabilities: Patients often experience trouble communicating, expressing their thoughts and conversing with others.
  • Mood Swings: Alzheimer’s can cause the patients’ mood to change abruptly, often in the opposite direction. A person afflicted with Alzheimer’s might be ecstatic at one moment and be depressed at the other.
  • Depression: Patients suffering from Alzheimer’s are aware of their condition in one way or the other. Mental degradation leads to lack of motivation and socialization.
  • Disorientation: Patients encounter difficulty remembering their location or the reason they travelled there.
  • Unstable Behavioral Patterns: Alzheimer’s patients develop unstable behavioral patterns, which may range from severe depression and anxiety to aggressive outbursts.

The Cure – A dark, uncertain Future

Most of the drugs designed to combat Alzheimer’s have focused on targeting Amyloid proteins. These medicines have been tested under extensive research studies, but ended up in disappointing results and yielded unsatisfactory improvements, if any.

Anew experimental drug has been swiftly gathering the limelight, with the TIME’s cover featuring a shadowed figure swallowing a glowing blue capsule. With previous publications of medicines building hopes only to be dashed away, are we looking at yet another magic medicine which will only end up in failure?

The story published in TIME’s magazine labels the medicine as “a radical new approach” and cites Dr. Frank Longo from Stanford University, who stated the drug eliminated Alzheimer’s repeatedly in studies conducted on mice. The experimental drug, labeled LM11A-31, is still shrouded in mystery and the only details released are that it has succeeded with mice as experimental subjects.

Is LM11A-31 Really up to the Mark?

The experimental drug has advanced to Phase II trials now and is being administered to people who are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. The positive news is the drug has exhibited success in mice and is currently in Phase II trials. The bad news is it has shown success only in mice as test subjects. Moreover, it has progressed to Phase II trials with live testing on Alzheimer’s patients only now. Many other experimental drugs have passes this stage and have then failed in the more grueling Phase III, which aggressively and thoroughly tests the drug over an extended period of time and greater number of test group individuals.

The study published in TIME’s magazine clearly mentions that the new drug does not target Amyloid proteins but instead preserves nervous connections by activating growth factors. The study quoted Dr. Ronald Petersen of Mayo Clinic as verifying the credibility of the research. However, it is critical to analyze if the quoted individual has any financial connection with Dr. Long’s pharmaceutical company, PharmatrophiX.

In this case, Dr. Petersen has connections with other companies such as Genentech, Roche and Merck. This places his credibility under slight scrutiny as the research on Alzheimer’s generates over $20 billion annually. The story may reveal the bright side of the research, but fails to cover side effects generated by the new drug. Stimulating growth factors, for example, can theoretically cause cancer as a side effect.

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