First Drug to Slow Alzheimer’s Discovered

Scientists have discovered the first drug of its kind that appears to slow the pace of mental decline in Alzheimer’s patients.

Solanezumab, developed by the American pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, was shown to block memory loss in patients with a mild version of the disease, making it the first medicine ever to slow pace of damage to patients’ brains.

Existing drugs, such as Aricept, can manage only the symptoms of dementia by helping the dying brain cells function, but Solanezumab attacks the deformed proteins that build up in the brain during Alzheimer’s.

Dr Doug Brown, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Today’s findings strongly suggest that targeting people in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease with these antibody treatments is the best way to slow or stop Alzheimer’s disease. These drugs are able to reduce the sticky plaques of amyloid that build up in the brain, and now we have seen the first hints that doing this early enough may slow disease progression.”

Should further trial results be positive, it could still be up to several years before the drug would become available on the NHS. Another phase-three trial is due to report in 2016 and then the drug would need to go through regulatory approval and would need to be shown to be sufficiently beneficial to patients.

Image credit: Ann Gordon

 

Arthritis Drug Restores Skin Colour in Vitiligo Patient

Dermatologists from the Yale School of Medicine have successfully used tofacitinib, a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, to reduce the effects of vitiligo.

Vitiligo is a disease which causes skin to lose its pigmentation and is commonly treated through the use of steroid creams and light therapy. These however, do not offer consistent results and so the improvements seen through the use of tofacitinib could represent a breakthrough in vitiligo treatment.

Assistant Professor of dermatology Brett King who headed the research first explored the benefits offered by the Janus kinase inhibitor (a drug which obstructs the activity of Janus kinase enzymes) to those suffering from alopecia before considering its potential as a treatment for the skin disease.

He investigated the drug’s effectiveness by trialing tofacitinib on a 53 year old woman who was experiencing the effects of vitiligo as large white patches extended over her face, hands and body.  Prior to the use of tofacitinib the area of skin affected was increasing however after two months of treatment the patient was able to observe re-pigmentation in the problem areas. Following five months of medication the white patches covering the face and hands had disappeared, leaving only a few small, white spots elsewhere on the body.

Knowledge of the way the disease affects the body combined with the researcher’s familiarity with how this already FDA approved drug works, has prompted confidence in tofacitinib’s future use as a popular treatment. This is further supported by the absence of any harmful side effects over the course of the study. Though additional research will be needed to confirm the drug’s safety, moving forward Professor King hopes to conduct a clinical trial using tofacitinib, or similar medicines such as ruxolitinib, to establish whether a JAK inhibitor could provide a successful remedy for those suffering with vitiligo.

Image credit: Nadine Mitchell

 

Wonder Drug Cures Eczema, Hair Loss & Arthritis

A newly discovered ‘wonder cream’ could help millions of patients with eczema, arthritis and a form of alopecia.

All three conditions are caused by an issue which causes the immune system to target the body’s healthy cells. Scientists looking for a way to help blood cancer patients have stumbled on a way to switch off that response.

Dr Aurore Saudemont, of the Anthony Nolan Research Institute, said: “This ­accidental discovery could offer a major breakthrough.

“These findings could eventually lead to treatments that eradicate ­symptoms of eczema, rheumatoid arthritis and even alopecia areata without causing major side effects.”

Over six millions Britons have eczema, four hundred thousand suffer crippling joint pain with rheumatoid arthritis and over a million have alopecia areata.

The Anthony Nolan experts were looking for a way to cure a complication that affects 80% of stem cell transplant patients. It happens when donated cells see existing cells as foreign and start to attack them. Researchers made a breakthrough when they found a protein in umbilical cord blood that stops a pregnant mum’s immune system attacking the unborn baby.

They studied cord blood donated by new mums, while stem cells were harvested from the umbilical cords.

Dr Saudemont added: “It is very exciting to discover that a product usually discarded could be so valuable.”

Image credit: Betsy Jons