Lancaster University scientists are celebrating a major breakthrough with a revolutionary new drug that could prevent the early stages of Alzheimer’s for thousands of people worldwide.
The news, announced during Dementia Awareness Week, means that the drug will now be tested on humans.
Many people who are mildly forgetful may go on to develop the disease because senile plaques start forming years before any symptoms manifest themselves. The ultimate aim is to give the drug at that stage, to stop any more damage to the brain.Professor David Allsop
Lancaster University has filed a patent application and the drug will be progressing into clinical trials run by the North West research company MAC Clinical Research.
If it passes regulatory hurdles, the ultimate aim is to give the drug to people with mild symptoms of memory loss.
Professor David Allsop, who developed the drug alongside Dr Mark Taylor, from the Faculty of Health and Medicine, said: “It is encouraging that our drug is being taken forward and will be tested on humans.”
The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. It begins when a protein called beta-amyloid forms senile plaques that start to clump together in the brain, damaging nerve cells and leading to memory loss and confusion.
In laboratory tests, Prof Allsop and Dr Taylor showed how their drug reduces the number of these senile plaques, and the amount of brain inflammation and oxidative damage associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Prof Allsop, who was the first scientist to isolate senile plaques from the human brain, said: “Many people who are mildly forgetful may go on to develop the disease because senile plaques start forming years before any symptoms manifest themselves. The ultimate aim is to give the drug at that stage, to stop any more damage to the brain.”
Dr Steve Higham, chief operating officer of MAC Clinical Research, said: “Preventing Alzheimer’s disease progression remains a critical unmet need for millions of people worldwide. With that in mind, we are very pleased to begin this exciting partnership with Professor David Allsop, his team and Lancaster University.”
Dr James Pickett, head of research at Alzheimer’s Society which currently funds the research, said: “There’s a tremendous need for new treatments that can stop the development of dementia in its tracks.”
About 850,000 people currently have dementia in the UK.