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New Weapon Against Alzheimer's Found

Antibody therapy appears to clear built-up plaque from affected brains

FRIDAY, April 22, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Regular infusions of plasma-derived antibodies appear to reduce levels of Alzheimer's disease-causing brain plaques while improving patients' thinking ability, researchers report.

Buildup of beta-amyloid protein plaques in the brain is a hallmark of Alzheimer's and toxicity related to this buildup is thought to be a major cause of the disease, for which there is currently no effective treatment.

In this phase I clinical study, conducted by a team from New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, researchers gave patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's periodic infusions of a targeted antibody, called immunoglobulin (IVIg). The antibody makes its way to the brain where it targets beta-amyloid for removal.

The study included eight Alzheimer's patients treated with IVIg. After six months of treatment, seven of the patients underwent cognitive testing. The tests showed that cognitive function stopped declining in all seven patients and had actually improved in six of the seven patients.

"If these results are confirmed in larger, controlled trials, we might have a safe Alzheimer's treatment capable of clearing the amyloid protein away," senior researcher Dr. Marc E. Weksler said in a prepared statement.

The study was presented at the recent annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Miami.

The researchers emphasize that it's too soon to describe IVIg as anything more than promising, and they do not recommend that doctors treat Alzheimer's patients with IVIg at this point in time. Preparations are already underway for a larger, controlled Phase II clinical trial of IVIg, the researchers said.

IVIg is an antibody product derived from human plasma. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has long approved the use of IVIg to treat other conditions, but not Alzheimer's.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about Alzheimer's disease.

SOURCE: Weill Medical College of Cornell University, news release, April 11, 2005
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