Alzheimer’s Drug Improves Cognitive Performance

18 April 2010

According to a new analysis of the performance of a drug developed by the Mental Health Research Institute in partnership with Prana Biotechnology the drug is even more effective in reversing dementia symptoms than previously believed.

A paper detailing the findings has been published in the early online version of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. The article is scheduled for publication in the Volume 20:2 (May 2010) of the Journal.

The results of the new analysis, conducted by Professor Ashley Bush of the Mental Health Research Institute reveal that, after 12 weeks of treatment, 41% of the people who received the drug responded better than then best response in the placebo group and 81% of those on the drug responded better on the Executive score than the best response in the placebo group. The best 35% of Memory score responses from those taking the drug were uniformly higher than the best 35% of the placebo group, indicating that the drug was inducing a greater proportion of larger improvements in memory performance than placebo.

Patients were treated with 50 mg or 250 mg of the drug in a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial for 12 weeks. The primary readout was the Neuropsychological Test Battery, that is divided into Executive Factor components (e.g. judgment, organization) and Memory components, as well as an over all score (“Composite”).

“These results clarify the impact of the drug in improving brain function in Alzheimer’s disease” Said Professor Bush.

Professor Bush said  “The drug  targets the normal zinc salts in the synapse, which we have shown in previous experiments to be essential for normal memory function. In Alzheimer’s disease the uptake of zinc salts into neurons becomes sluggish and causes a protein in the brain, beta-amyloid to aggregate into clumps that are not only themselves toxic but also prevent zinc from functioning correctly in the chemistry of memory”.

This drug he said “is a disease-modifying approach since, by targeting the zinc trapped in amyloid, it restores normal zinc physiology in the memory synapses, and dissipates the toxic amyloid clumps”.

“We have previously shown that Alzheimer transgenic mice respond to the drug with marked improvement within days,” he said.

The drug was well-tolerated by the group in the trial and additional data revealed in the new paper indicate that other metals outside of the brain and also crucial to normal function were not affected by the treatment.

Professor Colin Masters, Director of the Mental Health Research Institute and internationally acknowledged leader in Alzheimer’s disease research, commented that “Scientists working in the Alzheimer’s disease treatment field have now defined 3 main strategies. One is to stop the production of the protein beta amyloid, another is to clear this protein from the brain. The Mental Health Research Institute/ Prana Biotechnology approach is to directly target the beta-amyloid with a drug that modifies the disease. There is growing evidence from results that are now becoming available through clinical trials testing each of these approaches that ours could be the safest and most effective means of treating the disease.”

Contact:
The Mental Health Research Institute
Parkville Melbourne
Ross Johnstone
03 9389 2906
0408 422 221
r.johnstone@mhri.edu.au