Nasal spray may prevent Alzheimer's

From Home Care Assistance North Houston:

A nasal spray that can prevent Alzheimer’s disease and a stroke? Too good to be true?

Not according to researchers from Tel Aviv University. They say they’ve developed a medication that can be used as a nasal spray and protect against Alzheimer’s and strokes that are related to Alzheimer’s disease. The spray would repair vascular damage in the brain by triggering the body’s immune system.

Dr. Dan Frenkel, of the Tel Aviv University’s Department of Neurobiology, says he and other researchers are using part of a drug that was previously tested as an influenza treatment to induce an immune response against a build-up of amyloid proteins, or brain peptides, in the blood vessels. This build-up can lead to development of Alzheimer’s disease.

“In early pre-clinical studies, we’ve found it can prevent both brain tissue damage and restore cognitive impairment,” said Frenkel.

Dr. Alan J. Lerner, director of the Memory and Cognition Center at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Ohio, praised the nasal spray, adding that not all drugs need to come in a pill or a shot.

“I think we should be excited about this research because Alzheimer’s is such a major public health problem,” said Lerner, who was not involved in the study. “It affects 5 million people and the Baby Boomers will add 10 to 15 million more patients to that. “

Frenkel believes the new findings, accepted by the journal Neurobiology of Aging, may lead to a future breakthrough for a vaccine and a long-sought cure for Alzheimer’s. “This might open a new horizon of treatment targeting the immune response that can both reduce stroke incident in Alzheimer’s and also prevent disease progression,” Frenkel told AOL Health.

The vaccine activates macrophages, or large proteins in the body that devour foreign antigens. Large numbers of activated macrophages dispose of amyloid protein build-up in the brain’s vascular system. Trials in animals have shown that further damage can be prevented once these proteins are expelled from the brain, meaing existing damage due to a previous stroke could be repaired. The vaccine may also treat patients who are already experiencing Alzheimer’s symptoms.

“We’ve found a way to use the immune response stimulated by this drug to prevent hemorrhagic strokes which lead to permanent brain damage,” Frenkel added.

Researchers used mice to monitor the effect of the drug through “object recognition” tests, which evaluated cognitive function before and after vaccine injection. MRI screenings confirmed that further vascular damage was prevented after administration of the vaccine, and that object recognition tests indicated those animals treated with the vaccine returned to normal behavior. So far the vaccine has shown no toxic side effects in mice.

Lerner’s one concern is that the drug has not been tested on humans, although he says the theory behind the spray is backed previous research.

“There’s been an immune theory about Alzheimer’s around for about 20 years and it looks like this is an immune-mediated approach,” Lerner said. “In the past we’ve tried giving people prednisone and anti-inflamatory drugs. There are currently antibodies in clinical testing.”

Frenkel believes the drug may have the same effect in humans, both in preventing the diseases and in treating patients who have already been diagnosed. In fact, if further research supports the vaccine’s efficacy, it could have the potential to treat the dementia associated with Alzheimer’s in as many as 80 percent of patients.

While Frenkel was unable to comment on when the drug could potentially be available, he noted it has already been tested for safety as an influenza treatment by GlaxoSmithKline.

“The layperson should know that help is on the way,” said Lerner, whose own center at University Hospitals does a lot of research in this area. “You’re not going to be able to go out and get this right away. But we have to support Alzheimer’s research. It’s stalled in terms of dollars and students are being told to study something else.

“Sometimes we can look to other countries such as Israel for ideas,” Lerner added. “Our center does a lot of clinical trials We don’t want to keep doing the same cookie-cutter things. So this research is very germane.”

AOL Health writer Ronnie Koenig contributed to this report.
Huso, Deborah, and Ronnie Koenig. “Researchers Say Nasal Spray May Prevent Alzheimer’s, Stroke.” AOL Health. 1 Mar. 2011. Web. 03 Mar. 2011. .

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