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Clinical trials and Alzheimer’s disease



Clinical trials can save lives and are the reason why medical innovation exists. Especially in the area of Alzheimer’s disease, researchers have made groundbreaking discoveries over the years that enabled them to move forward in finding a cure. Even though there is no definite cure for Alzheimer’s disease yet, we will point out some of the developments and breakthroughs of the last 40 years that have shaped research today and show how essential clinical research is in findings new treatments and making a difference. 


Breakthroughs and developments in Alzheimer research - a Timeline 


In 1906, Dr. Alois Alzheimer first identified a peculiar disease on one of his patients suffering from severe memory loss. Ever since researchers have come a long way researching and testing the disease to make a difference for people living with the condition. 


The first breakthrough in Alzheimer’s research came in the 1980s when researchers identified two proteins, the tau protein, and the beta-amyloid protein, as key components related to Alzheimer’s brain disease and suspected to trigger severe nerve cell damage. Based on these findings, the first Alzheimer’s drug trial launched in 1987, testing Tacrine as one of the first drugs targeting symptoms of Alzheimer’s, which later got approved in 1993 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as first Alzheimer’s drug on the market.


In 2003, the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Institute on Aging started a disease genetics study. This study is collecting blood samples from families where the condition had developed in multiple family members later in life in order to identify further risk genes for the disease. The study has to date over 3000 participants and is expected to conclude in 2021.  


Further, a new drug for mild and moderate Alzheimer’s symptoms called Aricept (Donepezil hydrochloride) was approved 2 years later in 2005. The trial was initiated in 2001 with 229 participants and proved that the drug is able to improve memory abilities, activities of daily living, and global function in patients. In total, there are currently five Alzheimer drugs approved by the FDA in the US, with a sixth drug being available on a global scale.


The first major clinical trial for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease was initiated in 2012 by the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network. The trial is testing a new drug therapy with the drugs Gantenerumab and Solanezumab to prevent the progress of Alzheimer’s symptoms for people with an autosomal dominant mutation, which would put them into high risk for the disease. This interventional trial currently has 490 participants and is expected to conclude in 2021. 

In 2013, researchers of the International Genomics of Alzheimer’s Project (IGAP) made a new finding of new genes linked as risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. In a collaborative effort of researches worldwide, the study found 20 genetic variations linked to increased risk with Alzheimer’s, 11 of them that were not linked to the condition before. 


The newest developments in Alzheimer research today


One of the latest developments in Alzheimer’s research came at the end of 2019. A team of scientists from the University of Alberta Distinguished University found strings of amino acids (short peptides) that when injected into mice with Alzheimer’s disease significantly improved the mice’s memory as well as its brain pathology. Through the use of computer modeling and artificial intelligence, the team was able to discover a small-molecule drug, which is now awaiting a human clinical trial for further testing. This discovery could mean significant improvements for Alzheimer patients and represents years of research in the field.


Besides that, the Case Western Reserve University had claimed in early 2020 that they had identified a previously unknown gene and associated protein named ‘Aggregatin’, which could potentially be suppressed in order to slow down the process of Alzheimer’s disease. This is, however, not yet tested in humans and is in need of further testing until a clinical trial can be approved. 


Making a difference for Alzheimer’s disease


There are currently over 250 clinical trials in the United States actively recruiting patients for research studies. Do you want to make medical history and make a difference for your community? Clinical trials need volunteers in order to test new treatments effectively and bring them to the mass market. If you want to learn more about clinical trials, the benefits, and risks and see if this would be something for you, please visit our clinical trial education website here.

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