A confused or upset older man
Posed by model (Photo: Shutterstock)

There’s been some hopeful news in recent days concerning the treatment of Alzheimer’s.

The brain disorder slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.

It’s emerged an existing drug already used to treat HIV may have benefits in the treatment of the disorder.

Researchers at the UK Dementia Research Institute at Cambridge University, England, say maraviroc (Selzentry) helps to clear rogue proteins in the brain. Eliminating such proteins helps slow the progress of Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related disorders.

“We’re very excited about these findings because we’ve not only discovered a new mechanism of how our microglia hasten neurodegeneration, but we’ve also shown that this process can be interrupted, potentially even with an existing, safe treatment,” senior author Professor David Rubinsztein from the UK Dementia Research Institute at Cambridge University said in a press release.

Microglia are the brain’s resident immune cells. When they become defective, they can hasten damage to nerve cells instead of protecting them.

The researchers studied the mice with Huntington’s disease, a genetic condition that causes symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s. They said maraviroc helps prevent the build-up of harmful plaque deposits on nerve cells. It’s this process that ultimately stops them from working properly.

They said that if treatment is started before symptoms become pronounced, it can slow down memory loss.

“Maraviroc may not itself turn out to be the magic bullet, but it shows a possible way forward,” said Rubinsztein.

“During the development of this drug as a HIV treatment, there were a number of other candidates that failed along the way because they were not effective against HIV. We may find that one of these works effectively in humans to prevent neurodegenerative diseases.”

New drug slows progression of Alzheimer’s by a third

The second piece of good news involves a new drug, donanemab. Pharma giant Lilly says the medication slowed the progression of the condition by 35% compared with a placebo in 1,182 people with early-stage Alzheimer’s.

Last year, the FDA approved Lecanemab (marketed as Leqembi), manufactured by biotechnology companies Biogen and Eisai. That treatment was found to slow the advance of Alzheimer’s by around 27%. Donanemab works by a similar mechanism but goes beyond lecanemab.

“The decades-long battle to find treatments that change Alzheimer’s disease is changing,” Dr Cath Mummery, of the UK’s National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, told BBC News.

“We are now entering the time of disease modification, where we might realistically hope to treat and maintain someone with Alzheimer’s disease, with long-term disease management rather than palliative and supportive care.”

Donanemab has yet to be submitted for approval. It also has serious side effects. Around a third of the study participants experienced brain swelling. Two died directly as a result of this side effect.

Alzheimer’s is a debilitating disease. It’s impact on those affected, and those who care for them, cannot be understated. Until recently, effective treatments against Alzheimer’s were non-existent. Although none of the drugs above are a “cure”, they offer hope that effective treatment could be on the horizon.

Don't forget to share:

Help make sure LGBTQ+ stories are being told...

We can't rely on mainstream media to tell our stories. That's why we don't lock Queerty articles behind a paywall. Will you support our mission with a contribution today?

Cancel anytime · Proudly LGBTQ+ owned and operated