Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New approach to fighting Alzheimer's shows potential in clinical trial

07.01.2010
Nutrient mix shows promise in improving memory

In the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, patients typically suffer a major loss of the brain connections necessary for memory and information processing. Now, a combination of nutrients that was developed at MIT has shown the potential to improve memory in Alzheimer's patients by stimulating growth of new brain connections.

In a clinical trial of 225 Alzheimer's patients, researchers found that a cocktail of three naturally occurring nutrients believed to promote growth of those connections, known as synapses, plus other ingredients (B vitamins, phosopholipids and antioxidants), improved verbal memory in patients with mild Alzheimer's.

"If you can increase the number of synapses by enhancing their production, you might to some extent avoid that loss of cognitive ability," says Richard Wurtman, the Cecil H. Green Distinguished Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, who did the basic research that led to the new experimental treatment. He is an author of a paper describing the new results in the journal Alzheimer's and Dementia.

There is currently no cure for Alzheimer's disease, though some medications can slow the progression of the disease. In particular, many U.S. patients take cholinesterase inhibitors, which increase levels of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter important for learning and memory.

While those treatments target the symptoms of Alzheimer's, Wurtman hopes to attack what he believes is the root cause of the disease: loss of synapses. The three nutrients in his dietary cocktail — uridine, choline and the omega-3 fatty acid DHA (all normally present in breast milk) — are precursors to the fatty molecules that make up brain cell membranes, which form synapses.

In animal studies, Wurtman has shown that these nutrients boost the number of dendritic spines (small outcroppings of neural membranes). When those spines contact another neuron, a synapse is formed.

Three additional clinical studies in Alzheimer's patients are now underway, one in the United States and two in Europe. Results are expected to be available between 2011 and 2013.

The first clinical study was sponsored by the French company Danone, known in the United States as Dannon; the study was conducted primarily in Europe and was led by Philip Scheltens, director of the Alzheimer Center at Vrije Universiteit Medical Center in Amsterdam. Wurtman and MIT have patented the mixture of nutrients used in the study, and Nutricia Advanced Medical Nutrition, a unit of Danone, holds the exclusive license on the patent.

Patients with mild Alzheimer's drank the cocktail (made in the form of a nutrient drink called Souvenaid, with the collaboration of Danone) or a control beverage daily for 12 weeks. Patients who received the nutrients showed a statistically significant level of improvement compared to control subjects: 40 percent of the treated patients improved performance in a test of verbal memory (memory for words, as opposed to memory of locations or experiences) known as the Wechsler Memory Scale, while 24 percent of patients who received the control drink improved their performance. Among those who received the cocktail, patients with the mildest cases of Alzheimer's showed the most improvement.

The drink appeared to have no effect on patients' performance in another commonly used evaluation for Alzheimer's patients, the ADAS-cog test. Wurtman believes that is because ADAS-cog is a more general assessment that tests for orientation and movement/spatial memory as well as cognition. So in subjects with early Alzheimer's who show principally cognitive changes, more than the 225 subjects in the first study will probably be required to yield significant ADAS-cog changes after Souvenaid. The 500 subjects in the ongoing study in the United States may be sufficient.

John Growdon, a neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, says that trying to regrow synapses is an innovative strategy and offers a complementary approach to two other lines of attack in treating Alzheimer's: targeting the amyloid plaques that accumulate in patients' brains, and minimizing the damage done by toxic metabolites that build up in Alzheimer's-affected brains.

"I don't think any one approach has a monopoly, and that's good," Growdon says. "You need to have a lot of different approaches because no one knows what's going to work."

Wurtman believes his approach to Alzheimer's may eventually prove beneficial in treating other diseases. If these nutrients prove to be successful in Alzheimer's patients, "then you can think about other diseases in which there are too few synapses," such as Parkinson's disease, he says. "There are a lot of diseases associated with synapse deficiency."

Written by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office

Anne Trafton | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.mit.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Millions through license revenues
27.04.2017 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

nachricht New High-Performance Center Translational Medical Engineering
26.04.2017 | Fraunhofer ITEM

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Bare bones: Making bones transparent

27.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions

27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future

27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>