Thursday, January 31, 2008

168 dead end for Alzheimer's research

This new study shows that plaque dissolving medicines not only don't work, they may make things worse.
The study my dad was in involved dissolving plaque and making new plaque not stick, and we had been told it was promising and would be available to the general public in a few years. Perhaps that drug was one of the other types mentioned at the end of the article; I'm afraid some of the medical jargon is beyond me.
A once-promising pathway for research into preventing and treating Alzheimer's disease may have been derailed by a surprise chemical finding...Scientists in laboratories around the world have been investigating drug candidates called amyloid inhibitors, which many experts believed could keep proteins such as amyloid-beta from sticking together in brain tissue.....
A team of chemists at the University of California, San Francisco, found that these candidate drugs form large, unwieldy clumps themselves, rendering them useless as targeted therapy against amyloid in the brain....
In other words, the drugs lose their ability to migrate to the brain to fight amyloid plaque. They also give up their targeted specificity against amyloid....
(A)ntibody-focused strategies aimed at eliminating plaques, or treatments focused on easing the downstream effects of amyloid buildup (still have potential).
(I)t's still not certain whether protein plaques even cause Alzheimer's and other brain diseases, or whether they are merely byproducts of the disease process.
All that money and work, for nothing. I hope these researchers can find something more promising to work with.
(Screenprint of article as accessed 01-31-2008)


Patty McNally Doherty said...

Hi Bert,

Don't be discouraged by what appears to be a scientific failure. I finally started to understand this when I read about a famous scientist who wears a t-shirt that says "I'm wrong 90% of the time." That's the life of a scientist. And being wrong is as important as being right, if only to prove the ineffectiveness of a certain line of research. Without knowing it will dead end, much time and money can be wasted on the many tributaries that branch off from it. If we're willing to fight this disease, we have to be willing to accept "no" as an answer to many of our scientific questions.

Scientists are going after Alzheimer's disease, many, many scientists. Most of them believe it IS caused by beta-amyloid. But the body naturally produces beta-amyloid, it can be found in many of our organs and tissue. The problem is a certain short little toxic piece of it that breaks off and clumps together. It aggregates, and forms the plaques and tangles that defeat the mind of Alzheimer's patients. Stopping the production may not be the best answer. And that is where a TON of money has been directed. Find the gene, find the cause, find the "beginning." But there is another line of research that had mostly been ignored. Malcolm refers to it as the "forgotten" side of Alzheimer's. This group believes the solution might better be revealed if the beta-amyloid is flushed from the brain. Malcolm describes it with his "kitchen sink" analogy. Normal flow of a faucet is our normal production of beta-amyloid. The sink overflows, representing Alzheimer's disease. His theory is to not try to control the faucet, instead check out what's clogging the drain. Clear the body of beta-amyloid, and Alzheimer's will not occur.

The problem is we don't know. We need to find out. And to find the answer, or ONE answer, according to t-shirts worn by scientists, 90% of their ideas won't pan out.

It is an incredibly costly process. There is no neat, efficient, way to explore uncharted territory. It's sloppy, and accidental. Many scientific discoveries are serendipitous. They're pure luck. What we try to do is use a rational approach to an irrational process. Nature is incredibly complex, our bodies are simply marvels of connections and circulation and replenishment. The brain is by FAR the most complicated, dense, mysterious organ in our bodies. The very thought of "curing" Alzheimer's disease is a mindbogglingly huge goal. The cost to do it will only be eclipsed by one thing. The cost to NOT do it.

That's why The Unforgettable Fund keeps plugging along. I KNOW first hand how bad this disease is, what a thief it is. I refuse to forget my experience with my father. I fight, I yawn, I go to bed. It's late and it feels like I'm rambling. But if we don't start backing this research, us - you and me and anyone who read this and understands, we're going to forget about it sooner or later, if you know what I mean.

The science needs to be funded. The answer will come. Don't ever give up. And with that I want to tell you about a new idea I have to raise money. It's great. I'll be posting it at in a few days. It's called "Forget It". I am asking everyone I know and everyone I don't know, to forget things for a month. Forget your extra Starbuck's. Forget going to the movies. Forget your manicure or pedicure. Forget that last cocktail. Forget dessert when you eat out. Forget Valentine's Day. Forget as much as you can, or as little as you want, and send that money to The Unforgettable Fund. This is a "forgetful" competition. I want to list all of the people and what they forgot for one month, and the amount of their donation. What a wonderful way to be remembered, don't you think? Will you help me spread this campaign?


e said...

Very interesting that this was posted today... I read an article in the WSJ about bad outcomes from clinical trials and it really struck home with me.

I have stated previously that I am so grateful to Bert for detailing what her dad went through and how nasty the side effects were of one of the clinical trials were (don't know if it had anything to do with this particular one). Largely because of this, we have decided not to have mom take part in similar trials. Now I know that these are necessary if progress is to be made. And as Patty said (I'm paraphrasing) 90% of the research and funding will come up empty, it's the 10% that will make the difference. I guess what struck me was that that means that 90% of these people-these research subjects-might have detrimental or if they are lucky no effects. If you can call being part of a control group "lucky".

There is no easy answer here. I guess what we know today is that for now, there is one less probable treatment. Ummmm... Yay???

e said...

Sorry, the link did not paste properly. If you are interested, take a look at the article here: