New drug trial for Alzheimer’s 2019-01-28T15:35:08+00:00
medical rnd

Halting memory loss

A new drug treatment for Alzheimer’s disease is being tested in the US. More than 30 academic medical centres and clinics are taking part in the 48-week nationwide trial into the effects of troriluzole, to see if it can stop or slow down progression of the disease and even improve symptoms.

Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia in the UK. Symptoms include memory loss, cognitive problems, such as confusion and difficulties with speech and language, anxiety, depression and personality changes.

The Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study, a group of institutions that researches treatments, is coordinating the trial, called T2 Protect AD. The aim of the project is to explore treatments for those with established dementia, as opposed to trying to find means of preventing the disease.

How troriluzole works

Dr Irfan Qureshi, the executive director of neurology at Biohaven, the biotechnology company sponsoring the study, explained that troriluzole targets a neurotransmitter called glutamate. It is thought that the level of glutamate in the synapses – the spaces between neurons – is too high in people with Alzheimer’s disease, and that the drug should help reduce it.

“We think that brain cells communicate with each other through the synapse, and if there’s too much glutamate there, then the neurons don’t communicate properly, and if there’s too much there for too long, they die,” Qureshi said.

Troriluzole’s active ingredient, riluzole, is already used to treat other neurodegenerative diseases. The drug has been well tolerated in trials so far, and Biohaven is also working on studies into its possible use to treat mental health conditions including obsessive compulsive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.

“Glutamate is probably involved in 90 per cent of excitatory transmission or communication between brain cells,” Qureshi added. It’s thought that a glutamate imbalance is also a factor in some cancers and chronic pain.

The trial is being conducted on individuals aged between 50 and 85, who are experiencing mild to moderate dementia, but are otherwise in generally good health and not living in a nursing home.

The participants are required to visit their research centre every six weeks during the trial. They must also have a caregiver who can administer the drug, spend at least 10 hours a week with them and come with them to appointments. Half of the participants will be given a daily dose of troriluzole, and half will be given a placebo. Screening of potential participants began in December.

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