Drug Shows Promise Against Alzheimer's

Researchers are racing to find a way to stop the spread of Alzheimer's. The Government projects 16 million people will have the disease by 2050. A unique experiment at the Mayo Clinic is sparking a lot of interest on the subject right now.

There are at least five major drugs being tested around the country. All the experiments are trying to find ways to modify brain chemistry to alter the course of the disease. But one drug in particular had some unusual results when given to a special breed of mice.

The mice are genetically programmed at birth to develop a memory deficit. The experiment involved a partnership between Utah-based Myriad Genetics and the Mayo Clinic.

Dr. Adrian Hobden, Myriad Genetics: "But it was modeled on the same genetic background as human disease. So we know if you over express this toxic peptide in mice, they develop cognitive deficits."

So a mouse, with its own version of Alzheimer's, swims aimlessly in a circle trying to find a hidden platform. Though taught how to find the platform to get out of the water, it never remembers.

For humans at this stage of the disease, they may not remember where they parked a car or how to get home.

But then the mouse is given this new drug which goes after a toxic molecule in the brain, believed to be the primary trigger for Alzheimer's. It's an astonishing turnaround. Though the platform has been removed so the mouse can't see it, it swims to the location. Even when it swims away, it goes back, remembering that is where that platform was located.

Results of the Phase Two human trials should be available by next year. Even though this drug has a new application in these experiments, it's been used in the past to treat prostate cancer. In those patients it's had no ill side effects.

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