There is currently no known way to prevent or cure Alzheimer’s disease.
In a recent development, the drug Lecanemab has received full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
This is the first FDA-approved treatment to help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Prof Ralph Martins AO, Director of Research at the Australian Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, said it was an exciting development. “This is the first disease-modifying drug that we think will change the lives of a number of patients,” he said.
“It’s the first drug that has been effectively shown to remove amyloid from the brain,” Prof Martins said. “It not only brings down the amyloid but also slows down the progression of the disease in terms of the cognitive decline by as much as 27%.”
Additionally, there are are some drugs in use that treat and improve the symptoms for a short period of time for a percentage of those who develop the disease. These are broadly termed Acetyl Cholinesterase Inhibitors. While they improve the functioning of neurons they do not stop the progression of the disease. Eventually the disease progression overrides any benefits of improved neuronal efficiency and creates massive cognitive impairment.
New drugs are being trialed all the time. However, even though some of these are in the clinical trial stage, their efficacy has still to be validated and they require proof that they do not have destructive side effects before they can be released for public use. This can take years unless the treatment is of a type that is already in use in other medical areas and its safety already established.
We urgently need to develop effective treatments to minimise the enormous impact Alzheimer’s disease will have on the nation’s health, quality of life and economy in the coming years.
There is currently no known way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. However, through our research we are gaining an increasing understanding of physiological and genetic influences as well as lifestyle factors associated with its onset.
The role of diet as an environmental factor associated with Alzheimer’s disease is becoming well known. A low dietary intake of omega-3 essential fatty acids (Fish Oils) and certain nutritional supplements could be possible risk factors for AD. If our trials with these are successful, they have the advantage of being able to progress rapidly to clinical trials as they are already known as safe foods. Other dietary factors being studied include anti-oxidants and polyphenols, all known to have a protective affect against cognitive decline.
We are also studying the role of physical and mental stimulation. These are both associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s and are known to improve general health as well as memory and cognition. Our studies are aimed at assessing whether these factors have a role in deferring or preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s.
Cholesterol and obesity are also known to be associated with Alzheimer’s and the role of reducing these conditions as potential preventative strategies is also being studied.