Monday, September 09, 2013

Encouraging new treatment for dementia is emerging

Some of my friends email me or post to me on Facebook when they see a science article talking about Alzheimer's or dementia, as everyone knows this is the cause nearest to my heart.  I do read them all.  Some I just shrug and say "yeah maybe" or "you wish" but this one...well, this one seems promising.
I'll let the first paragraph of the article speak for itself:

The first experimental drug to boost brain synapses lost in Alzheimer’s disease has been developed by researchers at Sanford-Burnham. The drug, called NitroMemantine, combines two FDA-approved medicines to stop the destructive cascade of changes in the brain that destroys the connections between neurons, leading to memory loss and cognitive decline.

To me, that means that they shouldn't have to get FDA approval, right?  This could be an off-label usage?  I'm trying to understand how the drugs are being combined.  I'm thinking of PhenFen, that diet drug that was two other drugs combined. (And it ended up killing people, didn't it? Maybe that's a bad example...)

The decade-long study...shows that NitroMemantine can restore synapses, representing the connections between nerve cells (neurons) that have been lost during the progression of Alzheimer’s in the brain.

That's A LOT to promise.   And they aren't done promising yet.  They are abandoing the old method of looking at the "amyloid beta plaques and neurofibrillary tangles" (what the drug my dad tested was looking at) in favor of something different.

To try to dumb down the science in the article a bit, the researchers found that the plaques didn't harm the neurons directly, but they did cause an overabundance of a chemical (glutamate) to be released, and that overabundance is what harmed the neurons.  If I understand it correctly, it seems to burn out the "locks" (receptors) on the neurons that glutamate is the "key" to.  A drug called Metamine can target those receptors, but it turns out that an overdose of glutamate also causes the receptors to repel the Metamine, meaning it's not as effective as it should be.  The researchers also discovered that part of the nitroglycerine molecule (the heart drug) can also attach to that receptor.  Working together, the piece of nitro can allow the metamine to bond to the receptor and keep it from burning out.

That would be good enough, to say that it would stop dementia in its tracks.  Have your loved one with a bit of impairment, maybe you have to drive him around or make a picture menu for the remote controls of the house, but better than the slow slide into oblivion that dementia offers now, right?

But wait, there's more.

By shutting down hyperactive eNMDA receptors on diseased neurons, NitroMemantine restores synapses between those neurons. “We show in this paper that memantine’s ability to protect synapses is limited,” (Stuart A) Lipton (MD, PhD) said, “but NitroMemantine brings the number of synapses all the way back to normal within a few months of treatment in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, the new drug really starts to work within hours.” 

Yes, it RESTORE NEURONS TO NORMAL.  In mice for now.  

Screenprint of original article


elderly care said...

The research is indeed promising. We need all the support we can get in this fight for Alzheimer's and dementia. Elderly care is no joke. It entails a lot of patience and understanding and most of all, love and concern. 

Being BIlingual curtails dementia said...

The only important thing is love, and care in dementia.I appreciate your article,very well written.
One more new treatment is being suggested by researchers is that to have less chances of developing dementia one should be knowing/learning more than one language.

Unknown said...

Thanks for such an informative post. This experiment really helps in treatment for dementia.