With the advent of new diagnostics and promising therapies for Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers believe new treatments will hit clinics in the near future.
“After decades of struggle…we are at a point where we can give patients some real hope,” said Dr. Brad Hyman, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease research center at MGH.
“We are very close now to having disease-modifying treatments available,” agreed Michael Hutton, CSO of neurodegenerative diseases at Eli Lilly & Co.
Physicians and researchers now believe that identifying patients who have plaques of amyloid beta protein, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s Disease, fifteen or twenty years before symptom onset can significantly slow or even halt the disease progression. Immunotherapies targeting the amyloid beta protein have had early clinical success in this patient group. In fact, researchers now believe that some of the earlier therapies failed clinical trials because they were tested in patients who had progressed too far in the disease.
“We were treating patients who already had severe symptoms,” said Hyman. “When you look at those individuals, they’ve lost something like a third of the substance of their brains. At that point, it’s the equivalent of organ failure.” While trying to rescue late-stage patients might still be a challenge, early diagnosis and treatment may vastly improve the prognosis for many Alzheimer’s patients.
Lea is a PhD student at MIT studying molecular and cellular neuroscience. She is interested in translational disease research and is currently examining the role of neuronal identity in Huntington's Disease. Lea graduated from Harvard with an AB in neurobiology and has interned with biotech startups in neuropharmacology and biomedical engineering.
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