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Successful elimination of Alzheimer's proteins with the help of special antibodies
The deposition of amyloid beta proteins in the brain has been considered a key factor in the development of Alzheimer's for years. When they were discovered, there was great hope of finding an approach to treating the disease here. For a long time, however, little progress could be made. Scientists at MedUni Vienna have now introduced a new approach to removing protein deposits in the brain.
"For years, the amyloid-β protein was a promising therapeutic target in Alzheimer's disease, but the results of the study were rather disappointing," reports the MedUni Vienna. Although the protein, together with the tau protein, is considered a key biomarker for Alzheimer's disease in the brain, no efficient therapies have so far been derived from this finding. However, the current phase III study, led by Elisabeth Stögmann from the University Clinic for Neurology at MedUni Vienna, has shown that monoclonal antibodies that target amyloid deposits (plaques) in the brain can dissolve these plaques. The extent to which the memory of those affected can be preserved in this way must now be clarified in further studies.
Alzheimer's plaques successfully resolved
“After this positive effect has been proven, we now want to investigate whether the disappearance of the plaques also contributes to the fact that the deterioration in the memory performance of the person concerned can be stopped or reduced. The first results are promising, ”emphasizes the study director in a press release from MedUni Vienna on the study results. In their phase III study, the researchers used the active ingredient aducanumab, which is given intravenously and directly attacks or helps to remove and dissolve the protein deposits in the brain that are characteristic of Alzheimer's. The improved effect of the amyloid antibodies is due to the fact that a higher dose is generally used, explains Elisabeth Stögmann.
Side effects easier to control
In addition, the recurring side effects in the form of edema (water retention) in the brain are now much easier to "manage", the study leader continues. The edema can only be determined in the starting phase of the antibody treatment and if the dose is reduced again, the edema resolves itself and the therapy can be continued as planned without recurrence. "The patient does not notice anything of this, but I can recognize the edema in magnetic resonance imaging (note: MRI) and react correctly to it"; explains the expert. Corresponding edema can be seen in around a third of those affected.
Early detection is vital
The effect of the new antibody treatment, the researchers say, the better the earlier it is used in those affected. However, one has so far had to rely on obvious cognitive complaints, i.e. symptoms that are noticeable to those affected themselves or to their environment. The changes in the brain have usually been going on for years. For example, the amyloid-β-plaques can slumber in the human body 20 years beforehand without becoming a threat, the experts explain.
New blood test in development
Early detection could also improve significantly in a few years, the scientists hope. Elisabeth Stögmann reports on a lecture at the world's largest congress on Alzheimer's (AAIC in Chicago), in which a blood test that was still in development was presented, which detects amyloid-β in the blood picture even in 50- or 60-year-olds and thus increases this May indicate risk for Alzheimer's dementia. "This test could completely change the scene of Alzheimer's research and treatment in just a few years," the expert concluded.
Further studies planned
Based on the results of their research on the use of antibodies to dissolve protein deposits in the brain, the researchers at MedUni Vienna are now planning further studies to check whether the destruction of the plaques also slows down the deterioration in memory performance in Alzheimer's patients. The first concrete results can be expected here in about three years, says neurologist Elisabeth Stögmann. (fp)