Chicago For the first time, an experimental drug shows promise for halting the progression of Alzheimer's disease by taking a new approach: breaking up the protein tangles that clog victims' brains.
The encouraging results from the drug called Rember, reported Tuesday at a medical conference in Chicago, electrified a field battered by recent setbacks. The drug was developed by Singapore-based TauRx Therapeutics.
Even if bigger, more rigorous studies show it works, Rember is still several years away from being available, and experts warned against overexuberance. But they were excited.
"These are the first very positive results I've seen" for stopping mental decline, said Marcelle Morrison-Bogorad, director of Alzheimer's research at the National Institute on Aging. "It's just fantastic."
The federal agency funded early research into the tangles, which are made of a protein called tau and develop inside nerve cells.
For decades, scientists have focused on a different protein - beta-amyloid, which forms sticky clumps outside of the cells - but have yet to get a workable treatment.
The drug is in the second of three stages of development, and scientists are paying special attention to potential treatments because of the enormity of the illness, which afflicts more than 26 million people worldwide and is mushrooming as the population ages.
The four Alzheimer's drugs currently available just ease symptoms of the mind-robbing disease.