Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most prevalent types of dementia in the world, affecting an estimated 35.6 million people all over the globe, and that number is expected to double in 20 years.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America estimates that as many as 5.1 million Americans may be living with Alzheimer’s disease. Australian company Actinogen Medical says Alzheimer’s is Australia’s second biggest killer. According to a 2012 study commissioned by the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, 747,000 Canadians were living with cognitive impairment, which included, but was not limited to, dementia.
People with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia may experience a decline in mental function severe enough to reduce their ability to perform everyday activities. Some of the cognitive functions that may be impaired include memory, communication and language, ability to pay attention, reasoning and judgement, emotional control, and social behavior.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, nor is there an effective long-term way to prevent potential mental decline. However, that has not stopped scores of researchers and medical teams that continue to study the efficacy of different drugs and therapies. The following are some of the more promising options in the works.
A safety trial on the drug Leukine already is underway at the Colorado University Anschutz Medical Campus.
“We found so far that Leukine is safe in people with Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Huntington Potter, the director of Alzheimer’s research at the university. “That means it doesn’t have the side effects that so many other Alzheimer’s drugs have had, which are swelling in the brain and bleeding into the brain.”
Leukine has been successful in removing the plaque or amyloid along the outside of nerve cells in the brain of mice. Researchers do not know the exact mechanism for removal, but the drug is working and working quickly. Leukine also may be helping the brain repair itself. The Alzheimer’s Association has donated $1 million toward financing the costs of the next phase of this trial.
Neurologists at Rush University Medical Center are testing a type of insulin that is inhaled through a nasal spray to see if it improves cognition and memory function in people with mild cognitive impairment.
“There is growing evidence that insulin carries out multiple functions in the brain and that poor regulation of insulin may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Neelum Aggarwal, a neurologist at Rush and the lead investigator of the study.
The 18-month clinical trial will study the nasal spray versus a placebo in 275 adults between the ages of 55 and 85.
Australian researchers at Actinogen Medical have begun trials of a new drug called Xanamem. More than 170 patients with mild dementia in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom will take part in the placebo-controlled 12-week trial. The medicine blocks the stress hormone cortisol in order to improve mental function for those with dementias. In 2015, an Edinburgh University study of mice showed reducing cortisol in the brain improved their memory and decreased the number of Alzheimer’s-associated amyloid plaques in the brain.
Researchers continue to work as they seek a successful, long-term option for treating or preventing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.