News / USA

US Launches Campaign Against Alzheimer's, Including Prevention Drug Trials

US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (file photo)US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (file photo)
x
US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (file photo)
US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (file photo)
Jessica Berman
The U.S. government has announced a major education and research campaign to fight Alzheimer's disease.  As part of that effort, scientists are stepping up their efforts to develop drugs by the middle of the next decade that could prevent the incurable brain-wasting disease.  

Two Alzheimer's disease prevention trials are receiving money from the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, as part of the Obama administration's new national strategy to fight the growing problem of Alzheimer's in the U.S. and around the world.  

An estimated 5.4 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's or some form of dementia.  The number is expected to grow exponentially as the U.S. population ages, and reach 7.7 million by 2030.  By then, Alzheimer's and other dementia disorders could be affecting as many as 66 million people worldwide.

The so-called National Alzheimer's Plan calls on scientists to develop treatments to prevent the disease by 2025. NIH has set aside $50 million to help fund the effort.  NIH director Francis Collins says the studies herald a new era in Alzheimer's disease research.

"We have learned more about this disease in the last couple of years than probably ever before," said Collins. "And now the goal is to take that and translate it into interventions."

Collins was speaking at an NIH-sponsored conference of the nation's top Alzheimer's researchers.

Scientists at the Banner Alzheimer's Institute in Arizona announced they will be conducting human trials early next year of an experimental drug, called crenezumab, that they hope will prevent the disease.

The study will involve members of a large extended family living in remote villages within several hundred kilometers of each other near Medellin, Colombia.  Some of the thousands of relatives carry an extremely a rare genetic mutation that inevitably causes early on-set Alzheimer's.  

Those with the genetic flaw begin showing cognitive declines in their mid-forties and are destined to develop full-blown Alzheimer's by their early 50's.

The Banner Institute's Pierre Tariot is one of the lead investigators. Addressing the ethical questions some critics have raised about testing drugs on healthy people in a poor developing country, Tariot says all of the study participants have been fully informed about the possibility that the drug might not work, or that they might get a placebo that does not contain crenezumab.  

Tariot says they still wanted to participate.

"They have been faced with this devastating illness hitting every generation for hundreds of years," said Tariot. "As one of them put it, 'There are many rivers to cross but at least we are at the first bank.'  And that's kind of the attitude that people have had."

Three hundred individuals have signed up for the trial; one-third will receive crenezumab and the others will be given a placebo. The trial will also include a smaller number of individuals in the United States.

If the therapy works in those with early-onset disease, scientists hope it may also help older individuals.

Cremezumab is a vaccine that targets the brain plaques or amyloid protein deposits that are thought to underlie development of Alzheimer's, according to Banner's Eric Reiman, who will help lead the study.

"Crenezumab is an antibody treatment that is intended to bind with amyloid and remove it from the brain," said Reiman.

Injections of crenezumab or placebo will be administered every two weeks.  

The $100-million Colombia trial is slated to last five years, but researchers predict they could see results within two.  NIH is providing $16 million to support the research; Banner is contributing another $15 million.  The major share of the funding - about $65 million - will come from the drug's American manufacturer, Genentech.

A second Alzheimer's drug trial, also funded by NIH, has shown that a nasal insulin spray used twice daily by people with mild cognitive dysfunction seemed to improve their symptoms, offering hope that Alzheimer's could be treated or even prevented.

You May Like

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid