The link between clumps or “tangles” of protein inside nerve cells in the brain and Alzheimer’s disease was first made over 100 years ago.
Later shown to be made up of a protein called Tau, the tangles build up inside cells involved in memory, destroying them in the process.
Rember, or methylthioninium chloride, is the first treatment specifically designed to target the Tau tangles.
Other treatments for Alzheimer’s tend to focus on combating a waste protein in the brain, beta-amyloid, which is known to form hard plaques. The latest work suggests targeting Tau may produce better results.
Although there have been other ‘wonder’ medicines in the past, this does seem to be heralded as a new development as the trials move into the next stage of trials with work also being done to look at the effects on prevention as well as a slowing of progression of Alzheimer’s.
The BBC has some stories from people who are on the trial where they explain the effects that this medication has had on them or their family members.
One of the most interesting aspects of the trial is that it is being funded by a pharmaceutical company – which the Alzheimer’s Research Trust picks up on with the Chief Executive, Rebecca Wood, stating that
“It is telling that this large trial was paid for by a pharmaceutical company. Public funding for dementia research is woefully inadequate. Cancer researchers receive ten times as much public funding as dementia scientists in the UK, yet dementia care costs are greater than those for cancer. We urgently need an increase in research funding if we are to offer hope to the 700,000 people in the UK who live with Alzheimer’s or other dementias.”
Of course, everyone is pulling on the same purse-strings so it’s hard to say one type of medical research should take precedence over another – and it’s hard not to make comparisons about availability of research money in one area as opposed to another – but it isn’t necessarily a situation of one or the other.
Pharmaceutical companies have obvious vested interests in funding research trials and while the best case would be for the research to be independent – at least the interests are openly stated. I for one, wouldn’t be too proud to use medication necessary as long as the research had integrity.
All good signs and as The Times mentions in its Comment piece
It may be some time before we can say that dementia is a controllable disease, but 100 years after Alzheimer’s was identified, that no longer seems to be an unreasonable objective.
Reasons to be cheerful – perhaps.