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Biotech Science

Drug Shows Early Promise Against Alzheimer's 46

The feed delivers news from Ars Technica about a new and promising treatment for Alzheimer's. The drug Etanercept works by disabling the functioning of a cytokine called TNFa, and reportedly caused immediate improvement — in minutes — in mental functioning in one Alaheimer's patient. Double-blind studies have not yet begun.
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Drug Shows Early Promise Against Alzheimer's

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 11, 2008 @11:03AM (#21999046)
    I nominate the the Slashdot editors [slashdot.org] to be the first to receive treatment.
  • by c0d3h4x0r ( 604141 ) on Friday January 11, 2008 @11:04AM (#21999068) Homepage Journal
    Why does it matter if the drug works on two blind people?
  • I bet the editors have been diag.....

    Oh forget it, WAY to easy.
  • by 192939495969798999 ( 58312 ) <info&devinmoore,com> on Friday January 11, 2008 @11:30AM (#21999440) Homepage Journal
    TFA talks about substantial mental improvements, but it doesn't say whether the most disturbing effect of Alzheimer's was reversed: long-term memory malfunctions. If it doesn't help with that, it's worthless. I'd much rather that my grandparents could recognize me and remember the good times, and be bed-ridden, rather than be functional but still not know who anyone is, etc. No disease could be worse than losing one's mind, if you've never had family with Alzheimer's, be thankful.
    • by Metasquares ( 555685 ) <slashdot@nospAM.metasquared.com> on Friday January 11, 2008 @11:39AM (#21999600) Homepage
      Why are "substantial mental improvements" worthless? Anything that improves the condition of the patients is probably worthwhile.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rucs_hack ( 784150 )
        Why are "substantial mental improvements" worthless? Anything that improves the condition of the patients is probably worthwhile.

        I spent five years working with Alzheimers clients, and I see two sides to this. For the family it's often that their relative loses an awareness of them which is the worst part.

        But I've seen clients who retained some memory of their family begging them in brief moments of lucidity to forget about them. It's heart breaking. Sometimes I thought the clients with little or no recolle
    • by charon69 ( 458608 ) on Friday January 11, 2008 @12:01PM (#21999938)
      I actually find that response curious. No offense to you, and I freely admit that I have no family members with Alzheimer's, but it seems to me that I would rather have a functional family member who doesn't remember me over, as you say, a bed-ridden one who does.

      It seems like it would be a question between their happiness and yours. If they're a "normal" person who just happens to not know you, then they can still theoretically still lead fulfilling lives during their final years.
      • It seems like it would be a question between their happiness and yours. If they're a "normal" person who just happens to not know you, then they can still theoretically still lead fulfilling lives during their final years.

        Think of the feeling that you get when you can't remember where you put your keys and imagine what it would feel like when it's parts of your life. Not too many people that I know of would be happy knowing that they have a past but be able to remember none of it. Or, worse yet, to remembe

      • If they can't remember the great events of their life, i.e. memories of being a decorated war hero, it's different. I was lucky to hear my grandfather's stories when he could remember me and them, but it crushed me to know that he couldn't live out his final years reminiscing about his accomplishments, because he simply couldn't remember any of them.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        By the time he reached that part of his life, my grandfather's life was built on his memories, be it his large family who he loved very much, his many accomplishments in life, or the friends he had. When he was diagnosed with Alzheimers, he lost recognition of people in his life, lost all his dignity, and was put into a home. If he regained all his function but didn't remember anything, I'm 100% sure that his life would have felt empty and hollow. Memories give anyone's life meaning, the elderly more than a
      • to have a physically function person with no memory. They'd get up in the middle of the night to cook, forget that the stove is on, call 911 because they're confused, take the car for a drive and get lost. It's Hellish ( mother in law has dementia).
      • by Trogre ( 513942 )
        If it were that simple, then I might agree with you. Unfortunately as with most forms of dementia the more recent the memory, the more difficult it is to recall. So as the condition sets in, the victims most recent permanent memories are further and further back in time. The net result is nursing homes full of people waking up every day convinced that they're young children abandoned by their parents in a strange place.

        It is not pleasant. It really isn't.

        If this drug changes that situation such that the
    • by Phoenix666 ( 184391 ) on Friday January 11, 2008 @12:12PM (#22000060)
      That's interesting. My grandmother has Alzheimer's and while she can remember people and events from 50 years ago with perfect clarity, it's the more recent stuff that escapes her.

      Also, it's the ongoing challenge of her wandering off or forgetting basic needs that's been the hardest for my family to deal with. In fact it's sparked a whole family feud among my father and his brother and sister because they're grappling with how best to care for her.

      So my family's case is the opposite of yours; and this drug sounds very promising because it would not only restore my 84-year old grandmother's quality of life (and her parents both lived to be over 100), but also stop the disease from shredding my family's ties.

      • by garyrich ( 30652 )
        "Also, it's the ongoing challenge of her wandering off or forgetting basic needs that's been the hardest for my family to deal with."

        BINGO! An improvement that makes it so they can feed themselves and use the bathroom is the difference between keeping them home and putting them in a nursing home. Those are the things that force families to throw in the towel.

        My other initial though is that this an off label use of an existing drug. Nobody *has* to wait for the FDA to do anything. If there are no huge do
    • by Punko ( 784684 )
      My father-in law has Alzheimer's. Long-term memory is relatively ok, for a person of his age. But its short-term memory that is the worst. He can recall his childhood, but can't recognize his grandchildren. He mistakes his daughters for his wife, as his daughters remind him of what his wife looked like when they were young.

      He can't remember what he had for lunch, or if he had lunch.

      Give me short-term memory and functionality over long term memory any day.

      Long term memory is useful when you can
    • Long-term memory is one of the most crucial parts of your overall cognitive repertoire. This drug helps restore overall cognitive functioning, which includes memory retrieval and working memory and all the important things that make you, you. Long-term memories are encoded into the very same neurons whose synapses this drug helps recover. So I suspect that long-term memory would be at least partially restored as well. But it only does this by reducing the inflammation that makes these cognitive impairment
  • My Friend (Score:2, Insightful)

    by PinkyDead ( 862370 )
    A close friend of mine has MS, and I feel the same problem exists here as with 'cures' for that.

    These breakthroughs are great but how many people are there for which this will be just too late?

    Therein lies the problem: either the trial is too easy and all sorts of rubbish gets through (and there is little impetus to find a real cure) or the trial is too hard and many many people needlessly suffer.

    I hope they find a cure soon, because she's a really nice person and doesn't deserve it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mark-t ( 151149 )
      Are you suggesting that they should therefore halt current research, so as not to offend the friends and family of the people who may live long enough to see the promise of a viable cure, but not live long enough to see it implemented and deployed?
      • That's a hell of a leap.

        If I am suggesting anything, it is that life is cruel and that is bad thing. Or, if you are looking for a less fatalistic point of view, that it would be a good thing if the process of drug research could be made more efficient and accelerated (if that is even possible) in order to avoid suffering that is forced upon us by the conditions of the process, while being potentially needless.

        Anything else is pure supposition on your part.

  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nerdfl[ ]com ['at.' in gap]> on Friday January 11, 2008 @11:43AM (#21999660) Journal
    Because if this drug has even the smallest viability as a memory enhancer for people who otherwise don't have any notable memory issues... then, uh... wow. The possibilities are mind-boggling. I could also see a huge black market segment for this among college and university students. Steroids for brain... what a concept.
    • While they're not perfect obviously, there already exist a variety of drugs that some people use for a brain boost.

      I've heard reports of amantadine, bupropion, and a whole host of more common stimulants like amphetamine's being used for this. Some people report it makes them feel mentally sharper, along with the expected energy boosts.
      Others (eg: my psychopharmacology prof) have been dissapointed with amphetamines :P Still, like you said the market clearly exists. C'mon Invisible Hand! ... Damn that Adam
      • by mark-t ( 151149 )
        I was envisioning something along the lines of improving the brain's ordinary ability to form and strengthen neural connections, making it faster and easier to learn and assimilate new material as it is being presented normally... sort of like having a photographic memory, but for everything... sight, sound, dreams, anything.
      • Modafinil and a successor give a caffeine-like boost without the crash. In all, it can reduce your need to sleep.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I'm on Etanercept (50mg subcut injection twice a week) at the moment for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis (so "normal" in the sense of not having any neurological disorders that I'm aware of) and whilst it's effective against those (esp. the arthritis) I can't say that it has any noticeable cognitive benefits as far as I can ascertain.

      YMMV though, but I wouldn't go taking it just for kicks, as a) it's expensive as hell (a 25 mg vial costs the NHS 90 GBP + VAT in the UK) and b) it's a fairly potent immunosu
      • by omris ( 1211900 )
        unless your doctor is injecting it into your CSF, it's not likely to be much of a comparison.
  • by JRHelgeson ( 576325 ) on Friday January 11, 2008 @02:07PM (#22001640) Homepage Journal
    I always ask my dad "Do you remember the last time you were tested for Alzheimer's?"
    It pisses him off...
  • this sort of hits a nerve with me. this is not a study, although they do use that term once in the article. it is a CASE REPORT. based on ONE PATIENT. this is the very beginnings of something important. don't get me wrong, it IS important. but i think it's a bit cruel to get people's hopes up acting as though a cure has been found and all they have to do is test it.
  • This will never take off in America, not if it's being called a drug. After all, if America embraced this, their "war on drugs" would seem downright hypocritical... but perhaps if we called it a medicine :P
  • "I still don't recall ever having had any problems with my memory."

    We may never know if it really works, but as a person hoping to one day reach the age at which Alzheimer's is common, I'm in favor of finding a cure.

Things equal to nothing else are equal to each other.