Fresh out of a news release by Lilly – hope for Alzheimer patients for a new tool to help slow down the disease.
A 140-year-old pharma company in the USA, announced exciting new data on their phase 3 study on a promising tool to fight the onset of the crippling condition in early stages. Their gem is the so called solanezumab. It is an antibody – much like the ones every human produces against infectious agents like viruses or bacteria, but grown in a lab and specially designed to recognize the monomers of the Aβ peptide. Aβ is a molecule normally found in the human brain, but little is known of its function in the healthy brain. It becomes problematic when it starts forming long fibrils, which tangle together to form plaques in the brain, which are toxic and cause the Alzheimer’s symptoms. The exact cause for toxicity of there plaques or their precursor monomers is yet to be figured out in great detail, but it has been proven that the memory loss and cognitive disruption evolving with the progression of the disease are due to the eventual death of neurons and loss of neural connections in key parts of the brain where the plaques are deposited. The solanezumab antibody has been shown to interact with the precursors of the fibrils forming the plaques and inhibiting their polymerization, thus preventing the further development of the disease. It’s an effect that took time to appear in the patients and grew over time, hinting a disease modifying effect. Even more good news came with the announcement that it’s highly tolerable with little known side effects in the test subjects exposed to moderately high doses of it.
On the downside of it all, is the inability of researchers so far to reverse the effect of the disease as that would require the regrowth of brain tissues and the proper connections between the neurons, which is life long dream for biomedical engineers and molecular biologists alike. While it is very good news that the onset of the disease can be delayed and eventually may be abolished, there is no option so far to regain the lost to the initial stages of brain degeneration. Also, unfortunately, the stage 3.2 of the medical testing of solanezumab will take up to another three years and only then, if the outcome is positive, it will be considered for release to the public. That indeed may seem too far off, especially for already diagnosed patients as the antibody has proven ineffective against the later stages of the disease development, but breakthroughs like this always take long and need to be thoroughly investigated before being publicly available to insure the safety of the future users.
While there isn’t yet a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, a “stun gun” would still be extremely useful for patients and researchers, buying both sides time to progress even further with the efforts again the disease.