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Breakthrough drug 'could halt' Alzheimer's

  • Story Highlights
  • Announced at Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Chicago
  • remberTM is first drug to act on the "tangles" discovered by Alois Alzheimer
  • Tangles destroy nerve cells and neurons critical for memory
  • If further trials prove successful, the drug could be available by 2012
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(CNN) -- British researchers say a new drug could effectively halt the progression of Alzheimer's disease, offering hope to millions.

The pioneering research -- a joint initiative between the University of Aberdeen in the UK and Singapore-based TauRx Therapeutics -- was announced this week at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease (ICAD 2008) in Chicago.

The product -- remberTM -- is the first drug to act on the "tangles" discovered by Alois Alzheimer over a century ago. Tangles are made up of the protein, tau, which forms inside nerve cells in the brain.

According to Aberdeen University, the drug works by dissolving these tau fibers to prevent a build up of tangles which destroy nerve cells and neurons critical for memory.

Trials were carried out on 321 people with mild and moderate Alzheimer's disease in the UK and Singapore. Patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease were given either 30, 60 or 100mg of the drug or a placebo.

The 60mg dose produced the most pronounced effect, with those with both mild and moderate Alzheimer's experiencing an 81 percent reduction in mental decline after 50 weeks.

Those on rember did not experience a significant decline in their mental function over 19 months, while those on placebo got worse.

Brain imaging data also showed that the drug had its biggest effect in the memory critical parts of the brain where the tangle density is highest.

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In a statement on the university's Web site, Professor Claude Wischik, Chairman of TauRx Therapeutics and Professor of Psychiatric Geratology and Old Age Psychiatry at the University of Aberdeen's Institute of Medical Sciences, who led the research, said: "This is an unprecedented result in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.

"We have demonstrated for the first time that it may possible to arrest the progression of this disease by targeting the tangles which are highly correlated with the disease."

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

"It suggests the drug could be over twice as affective as any treatment that is currently available."

If further trials prove successful, the drug could be available by 2012.

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