Top Story, Pharma

The first drugs able to prevent or delay Alzheimer’s could come from research with younger adults with a rare gene mutation

Success in finding drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease could have more promise when experimenting with those too young to show symptoms.

Generally we think of Alzheimer’s as a disease that older people develop over time, but this isn’t always the case. Some younger adults, even in their thirties, start to develop symptoms due to a gene mutation.

These people could be essential for the development of a drug that could prevent or delay Alzheimer’s. An international research project based at Washington University in St. Louis called Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s Network (DIAN) is looking at this demographic for clinical trials of drugs.

Dr. Randall Bateman, a professor of neurology at Washington University in St. Louis, told NPR that “It’s highly likely” the first drug could be developed from studies with those people who are genetically predisposed. The easiest way to know this is by identifying if it has run in the family.

At first DIAN was just looking to learn more about the disease, but since experimental drugs have become available, they created a Trials Unit specifically to look at people who have not yet shown symptoms or are younger in general and have the mutation. Drug companies, the National Institute on Aging, the Alzheimer’s Association and more than 400 members of families with the mutation are involved in the effort.

Two different experimental drugs are involved with the research, which intend to reduce amyloid, the substance that builds up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. In the blind study, 75 percent of the participants are getting the actual drugs, and 25 percent are taking a placebo, according to NPR.

Even without a cure currently, progress is being made and plenty of effort is going into the cause, which was demonstrated at the annual Alzheimer’s Association International Conference this week.