Your brain cells put out waste products, or trash, in the form of beta amyloid protein. Normally you have a garbage truck in the form of ApoE that comes along and picks up that trash. If one of the ApoE genes you get is a mutant or dysfunctional, your risk of Alzheimer’s disease goes up about 30 percent. If you have two, it goes up more than 60 percent. So improper functioning of this gene leads to Alzheimer’s.
These mice were designed to produce lots of beta amyloid. When the Case investigators gave this drug to the mice it turned on the ApoE expression to make more. It put more trucks to pick up the beta amyloid waste product; thus less beta amyloid remained in the brain to stimulate inflammation, and consequently less brain cell destruction. The researchers noted that 25 percent of beta amyloid disappeared in the first six hours—and 75 percent of it in three days! But more importantly, brain cognition, returned quickly and special sense returned in 20 days.
If you extrapolate these numbers in human studies, that would be similar to 75 percent of plaque disappearing in 100 human days.
OK, what’s the hold up for trying this in humans? Very little, actually. The questions would be: what are the side effects of this drug and is there enough of the drug available? A small company makes Bexarotene for a specific cancer diagnosis. In some people, it causes liver, thyroid and blood cell problems, birth defects, kidney failure and some other unpleasant things. Most Alzheimer’s patients are past their procreating years and don’t have to worry about birth defects.
As of 2010, Alzheimer’s is predicted to affect about five million people in in the U.S., but increase to more than 12 million in 2050, with worldwide prevalence going from about 25 million cases to over 100 million in 2050. Its cost in the U.S. for caring for such patients will increase from $170 million to over a trillion in 2050 (not counting the time value for 30 million family caregivers expected in 2050).
With this breakthrough, we hope we’re one step closer to see Alzheimer’s victims (and their caregivers) saved from this horrible disease.
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