Anti-dementia drugs will soon start clinical trials

Two drugs have been found that have a protective effect on the brain and are already safely used in people. Prof Giovanna Mallucci, from the MRC Toxicology Unit in Leicester, wants to start human clinical trials on dementia patients soon and expects to know whether the drugs work within two to three years.
When a virus hijacks a brain cell it leads to a build-up of viral proteins. Cells respond by shutting down nearly all protein production in order to halt the virus’s spread. Many neurodegenerative diseases involve the production of faulty proteins that activate the same defenses, but with more severe consequences.
The brain cells shut down production for so long that they eventually starve themselves to death. This process, repeated in neurons throughout the brain, can destroy movement, memory or even kill, depending on the disease. It is thought to take place in many forms of neurodegeneration, so safely disrupting it could treat a wide range of diseases.
In the initial study, the researchers used a compound that prevented the defence mechanism kicking in. It halted the progress of prion disease in mice – the first time any neurodegenerative disease had been halted in any animal.