New research into Alzheimer’s disease explores not only managing symptoms but also treating its causes.1 Several possible treatments being tested include new medications, immunotherapy, cognitive training, and physical activity. New treatments are also emerging that focus on risk factors for dementia such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
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The Future of Alzheimer’s Treatments
There are four clinical trials for new Alzheimer’s treatments that are currently in Phase 3, the final study phase before requesting approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).2 Three of these studies involve drugs that target amyloid beta — gantenerumab, lecanemab, and donanemab. Amyloid beta is a protein fragment that forms clumps known as plaques in the brain, which appear to have toxic effects on nerve cells and disrupt communication between them.3 The drugs may remove beta-amyloid plaques from the brain or even prevent them from forming at all.
Solanezumab is another agent being studied in this class that may be beneficial when used very early in the course of disease. The first medication in this class, aducanumab (Aduhelm®), was granted accelerated approval by the FDA in June 2021 but faced criticism because of the design of its Phase 3 trials.2 Alzheimer’s experts are still undecided about the usefulness of this treatment.
The fourth clinical trial focuses on a new target, the sigma-1 receptor.2 A new drug called blarcamesine hydrochloride could change signaling at the sigma-1 receptor to prevent damage and death of nerve cells in the brain. This study will measure the medication’s effect on cognitive decline and the ability to perform daily activities in people with Alzheimer’s.
In addition to beta-amyloid plaques, tau protein tangles are a common brain abnormality in people with Alzheimer’s.4 Vaccines and other medications that prevent these tangles from forming are currently undergoing clinical trials.
Finally, reducing low-level brain cell inflammation is a promising area of Alzheimer’s research. Sargramostim (Leukine®), an agent that stimulates the immune system, is currently being studied in the treatment of Alzheimer’s for its protection of the brain from harmful inflammatory proteins.
Who Can Participate in Alzheimer’s Research?
Find Clinical Trials Near Me
Interested in clinical trials? Simply search by postal code and type of condition to see what’s going on in your area.
A wide variety of people may volunteer to participate in Alzheimer’s research.1 These include people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia, younger and older people, people with risk factors or early stages of disease, and people with Down syndrome. Healthy volunteers, caregivers, and family members may also be needed in Alzheimer’s research, depending on the study design.
People from diverse racial and ethnic groups, genders, sexual orientations, and geographic areas are needed in Alzheimer’s research.1 When clinical trials include diverse participants, the study results may be applied to a more diverse group of people with the disease. A clinical study with a wide range of participants allows researchers to learn about differences in how dementia affects certain groups, why some populations are unequally affected by the disease, and how to best treat or prevent disease in patients based on their unique characteristics.
People who volunteer for Alzheimer’s disease clinical trials and studies of related dementias become part of the medical discovery process, helping researchers find new methods of diagnosing, treating, and potentially preventing the disease.1 They may also learn more about their medical condition, have more access to helpful resources for their disease, and receive medical care or treatments that are otherwise unavailable. Another rewarding part of participating in Alzheimer’s clinical trials is that it helps to provide others with better treatment and prevention strategies in the future.