According to Science Daily (hot off the press):
An extraordinary new scientific study, which for the first time documents marked improvement in Alzheimer’s disease within minutes of administration of a therapeutic molecule, has just been published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation.
Scientists have hypothesized that an excess of a molecule called Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha (TNF-∝) causes a disturbance in the normal brain functions that are mediated by this chemical. By injecting a substance that acts against TNF, they have dramatically reversed the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease within minutes in a patient.
This new study highlights the importance of certain soluble proteins, called cytokines, in Alzheimer’s disease. The study focuses on one of these cytokines, tumor necrosis factor-alpha(TNF), a critical component of the brain’s immune system. Normally, TNF finely regulates the transmission of neural impulses in the brain. The authors hypothesized that elevated levels of TNF in Alzheimer’s disease interfere with this regulation. To reduce elevated TNF, the authors gave patients an injection of an anti-TNF therapeutic called etanercept. Excess TNF-alpha has been documented in the cerebrospinal fluid of patients with Alzheimer’s.
The use of anti-TNF therapeutics as a new treatment choice for many diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and potentially even Alzheimer’s, was recently chosen as one of the top 10 health stories of 2007 by the Harvard Health Letter.
Though this paper reports an exciting development in the continued search for a weapon against the dementia that characterizes Alzheimer’s, one of the authors has a financial stake in the drug being used. However, in time to come, more studies will surely be done to confirm the true value of this agent in the management of the disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disease of the brain (cause unknown, though genetic factors may be at play) that affects normal brain functions like problem solving, memory, etc. The patient ultimately becomes a virtual vegetable.
While many other disorders of the brain (including some tumors) can cause the same symptoms, diagnosis can be established by careful neurological assessment and a special scan called a SPECT scan, among others. SPECT scan is now available in major Indian cities.
Many preventive methods have been recommended, including smoking, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, eating fish oils (with their omega-3 fatty acids), and intellectually stimulating activities like playing chess.
Alzheimer’s has claimed a large number of historical and modern figures. The ‘A’ list itself is exhaustive, including Aristotle, Aeschylus, Aga Khan, Paula Abdul, Neil and Louis Armstrong.
Among several American Presidents, the last victim was Ronald Reagan.