New Types of Alzheimer’s Drug

Saturday, May 4, 2019, 5:30 pm. 62°F (17°C), A beautiful sunny day


For the last few weeks I have not listened or accessed any news on TV, print, online or radio.  In my car, the radio is set on the NPR (National Public Radio).  When I start the car, this station plays but I mute it as soon as the radio is on.  Yesterday, while starting the car, the NPR came on, before I could mute it, I heard the word Alzheimer’s.  I joined the story halfway into the broadcast.

After I came home, I went online to the NPR website and downloaded the story and the audio podcast. I would like to share a full text and the audio of the podcast.

The story is about the recent failures experienced by the big Pharma in their search to find drug(s) to treat or cure Alzheimer’s.   The most recent disappointment came in March, when drug maker Biogen and its partner Eisai announced they were halting two large clinical trials of an amyloid drug called aducanumab.  

Now the question is: What comes next? And scientists say there is a wide range of potential answers.

"Dealing with the amyloid is probably important, but it's not going to be sufficient," says Dr. Daniel Alkon, president and chief scientific officer of the biotechnology company Neurotrope.  His research focused on memory formation and the wiring that allows brain cells to communicate.

And that led him to focus on a key feature of Alzheimer's that didn't involve amyloid. "One of the earliest events in Alzheimer's disease is the loss of that wiring," Alkon says. "And as the wiring loss progresses the cognitive function loss progresses."

"You saw this very significant loss of wiring and you could actually reverse it," he says. "You could regenerate the wiring."

The brain did this by creating new connections between brain cells. And this process was controlled by a naturally occurring protein called PKC-epsilon.

Alkon's team found a way to tweak PKC-epsilon.  It's called bryostatin-1 and it comes from a tiny marine animal often mistaken for seaweed.

So, his team tried it, first on animals and then a small group of people, including a man named Frank.  

"He had been sitting in a chair staring at the ceiling, hallucinating," Alkon says. "Within a couple of weeks of our treating him he started swimming, playing pool, communicating, feeding himself."

Two preliminaries studies hinted that patients with advanced Alzheimer's could get better with bryostatin. And a more rigorous study of about 150 people suggested a modest benefit for some.

So now Neurotrope is working to confirm those results in another trial.

And, of course, bryostatin is just one potential treatment, says Dr. Steven Arnold, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.

Several other experimental drugs target a toxic substance called tau that builds up inside the brain cells of Alzheimer's patients, he says. And still others target inflammation or brain cells' mechanisms for clearing out toxins.

"These are all really powerful ways in which we can perhaps prevent, delay or even reverse Alzheimer disease," Arnold says.

Peggy from, time to time, says miracle could happen and Sumi can get better.  Including, Nina Kikani, when she came to our house last time, and many others have said “Miracle can happen.”  Let’s hope the advancement in search for arresting, curing and preventing Alzheimer’s is found sooner than later so millions of people’s lives can be get better.