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Alzheimer's drug hailed as biggest breakthrough in 100 years

By Lilian Anekwe

A new drug is being hailed as the most significant breakthrough in Alzheimer's disease in 100 years, after the results of a clinical trail showed it appears to prevent the progression of mild or moderate forms of the disease.

Patients with Alzheimer's disease have a build-up of a protein called tau in their brain, which clump together to form ‘tangles' that destroy brain cells, leading to memory loss and a decline in cognitive functioning.

But a trial of methylthionium chloride (MTC) in 321 patients with Alzheimer's found that patients given a 60mg dose three times a day for nearly a year had an 81% slower rate of cognitive decline than those in the placebo group.

MTC also stabilised the progression of Alzheimer's over 50 weeks in patients with mild and moderate forms of the disease. Brain imaging scans also showed MTC was effective after 24 weeks of treatment, with the greatest effect seen in the regions of brain most severely affected in people with Alzheimer's.

The results were presented at the International Conference of Alzheimer's Disease in Chicago. Large-scale trials of the drug, under its brand name Rember, will begin next year.

Professor Claude Wischik, professor of mental health at the University of Aberdeen, said:

‘This is an unprecedented result in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. We have demonstrated for the first time that it may be possible to arrest progression of the disease by targeting the tangles that are highly correlated with the disease. This is the most significant development in the treatment of the tangles since 1907.'

Professor Clive Ballard, head of research at the Alzheimer's Society, said: 'This is a major new development in the fight against dementia.

‘It is the first realistic evidence that a new drug can improve cognition in people with Alzheimer's by targeting the protein tangles that cause brain cell death.

‘This first modestly sized trial in humans is potentially exciting. It suggests the drug could be over twice as effective as any treatment that is currently available.'

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