Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common cause of dementia. The biggest risk factor for Alzheimer’s Disease is age with most cases being in people over the age of 65 years old and the risk increasing with age beyond that. With life expectancy increasing, the number of people living with Alzheimer’s Disease has grown considerably, and the fact that there has been no way of halting the condition has been of great concern. It leads not only to the loss of years for the patient but also to the loss of healthy years. For the families and carers, it can be a very demanding journey with impact also on their physical and mental wellbeing.
Recently Dr Stefan Weiss and his team of researchers from the University of the Witwatersrand announced that they have discovered an antibody that effectively targets the proteins that leads to amyloid-beta plaque formation which severely damages brain cells in Alzheimer’s Disease.
They administered the antibody nasally twice a week for 8 weeks to mice who then showed improvements in memory and cognitive function as a result of a reduction in the formation of amyloid-beta plaque formation. Their study was funded by the SA Medical Research Council and was initiated in 2015.
Dr Weiss and his team are now planning Phase 1 of clinical trials with 30-50 volunteers with Alzheimer’s Disease. The team is hopeful that the administration of this antibody to Alzheimer patients will result in significant improvement of memory and cognitive functioning. If so, they would aim to get regulatory approval for a nasal spray to slow down the progression of this disease that has hitherto been impossible to treat effectively.