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'De-Tangling' Alzheimer's Drug Shows Promise
Date:7/29/2008

Patients' cognition improved as medication rid brain of matted protein, researchers say

TUESDAY, July 29 (HealthDay News) -- A drug that aims to reduce the clogging "tangles" in the brain cells of people with Alzheimer's disease appears promising in early trials, researchers report.

Further studies are necessary to confirm whether the medication is as effective at slowing Alzheimer's as it seems, or whether it needs to be given as part of a cocktail of treatments.

Still, the new findings are promising, said study lead author Claude M. Wischik, professor in mental health at the University of Aberdeen in the U.K., and chairman of TauRx Therapeutics, which is testing the compound. "The good news is that this is a breakthrough," he said. "A whole new, different approach has opened up against the odds, against people's expectations."

These and other findings into potential Alzheimer's treatments were expected to be released Tuesday at the Alzheimer's Association's International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease, in Chicago.

At issue in the TauRx study are proteins in the brain known as tau. If they work correctly, they act as the equivalent of rivets in the "railroad tracks" in brain cells, allowing communication between cells, Wischik said.

But in people with Alzheimer's disease, these proteins create untidy mats of fibers called "tangles" in the brain. The tangles are directly linked to dementia, while the effects of another factor in Alzheimer's -- bits of protein gunk called amyloid plaques -- are variable, he said.

"People could have lots of this stuff (amyloid) and still play lots of bridge," Wischik said, "but if you have a lot of aggregated tau in the brain, you can't find your way to the toilet."

The new study looked at a drug designed to reduce the number of tangles. The study was a Phase II trial, meaning it looked only at appropriate doses and effectiveness. A lar
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