I remain hopeful that thru dedicated research, a cure will be found for Alzheimer’s Disease.
I often see headlines like this “Drug restores cells and memories in Alzheimer’s mouse models” bringing hope to the millions who suffer, but the reality is quite different.
Alzheimer’s disease drug candidates has one of the highest failures rates of any disease area – 99.6%, compared with 81% for cancer. One of the issues revolves around using mice for these studies.
Recently I had a long talk with the CEO of Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, Tim Armour. He said that while mice are good for broad tests, and can help narrow some ideas, it always takes human trials to test the effectiveness of any drug.
Simply put, mice don’t get Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) naturally; their brains are different than human brains so researchers simulate AD in mice brains and it is not exact so the margin of error is compounded. Also, most tests are on male mice, not female and there is a difference in their brain pathology.
So while not be totally dismissed, headlines like that one give a serious false sense of hope.
A few years ago, researchers were able to grow human neural stem cells which in turn were able to produce the two specific proteins that are the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease: β-amyloid and tau.
Using this “Alzheimer’s in a dish” approach, researchers are currently testing 1,200 drugs that are already approved by the FDA for other diseases and plan to test 5,000 experimental drugs for additional leads. This approach takes weeks per drug compared to months and years for mice and human trials.
Another current trend is to stop trying to “reverse” the disease once it occurs but rather to identify individuals most likely to develop AD and view it like heart disease with treatments earlier in life.
So while the headlines often don’t match reality, there is progress, albeit quietly, that one day soon will result in break thru that we can all celebrate together. Of course if one of these mice trials is successful, I will be the first in line cheering wildly!
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