Turning Back the Tide of Alzheimer's

Something out of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?

Imagine taking a drug that reverses the effects of Alzheimer's disease within minutes. If that sounds like something that could only happen in a movie like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, fasten your seat belt and get ready for the newest treatment in trial for Alzheimer's disease. For the first time, an extraordinary scientific study documents pronounced improvement in Alzheimer's disease within a few minutes of the administration of a therapeutic molecule. This discovery has just been published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation.

These new findings came about as researchers became aware of the significance of cytokines, a type of soluble protein, in Alzheimer's disease. Researchers focused on one specific cytokine called tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF), an essential component of the brain's immune system. In normal brains, TNF acts to regulate the transmission of the brain's neural impulses. Scientists thought that the higher levels of TNF in the brains of Alzheimer's patients might interfere with this process. Elevated TNF-alpha can be found in the cerebrospinal fluid of Alzheimer's patients. In order to effect a reduction in high TNF levels, the authors of this study injected a patient with an anti-TNF therapeutic known as etanercept.

Dramatic Turnabout Within Minutes

An unprecedented, even dramatic therapeutic effect occurred within minutes of the delivery of an injection of perispinal etanercept, known by the trade name Enbrel. It was found that Enbrel both binds and inactivates excess TNF. The drug has received FDA approval for the treatment of many immune disorders. The use of such anti-TNF therapeutics is a promising new treatment of choice for many diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and Alzheimer's disease.

Sue Griffin, Ph.D., director of research at the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, and at the Geriatric Research and Clinical Center at the VA Hospital in Little Rock, and a co-editor of the Journal of Neuroinflammation, published a landmark study in 1989 documenting cytokine over expression in the brain and its association with Alzheimer's disease. That research paved the way for this newest and outstanding discovery. "It is unprecedented that we can see cognitive and behavioral improvement in a patient with established dementia within minutes of therapeutic intervention," said Griffin. "Even though this report predominantly discusses a single patient, it is of significant scientific interest because of the potential insight it may give into the processes involved in the brain dysfunction of Alzheimer's."

Many other patients have since received the treatment all showing marked and sustained improvement.

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