The drug has shown promise in slowing the formation of tangled clumps of proteins in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, researchers reported on August 31 in the journal Nature.
An early-stage experiment to test the safety of the drug engaged 165 patients, and is awaiting confirmation. Results have indicated that the treatment reduced amyloid-beta proteins that kill healthy nerve cells in the brain.
"After one year, you can see no red on the image, meaning the amyloid has almost completely disappeared," said Dr. Roger Nitsch, a co-author of the study and the director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Zurich.
However, the drug has a potentially serious side-effect, known as amyloid-related imaging abnormalities (ARIA). ARIA indicates fluid accumulations in the brain, according to the researchers, but can be diagnosed early and managed by lowering the dosage. In rare cases ARIA symptoms were said to include headaches.
Alongside the study is the question of whether the drug will have a long-term impact on cognitive function. "We're encouraged that, there appeared to be a slowing of cognitive decline at a dose-dependent manner, and also a dose-dependent slowing in functional decline," said study co-author Dr. Stephen Salloway, a neurologist at Butler Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island.
In-depth studies are required to confirm the possible benefits of the treatment. A new study will involve 2,700 patients who have been diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer's in Europe, North America and Asia, and will incorporate two separate studies detailing cognitive decline.