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MRIs Show Drug Treatment Slows Brain Deterioration on Road to Alzheimer's Disease

“But if one is cognitively normal and an APOE 4 carrier, there is no evidence that taking donepezil is going to prevent the development of Alzheimer’s.”

Though donepezil is the only drug shown to affect brain shrinkage so far, other available drugs in its class have not been similarly tested for an effect on brain volume, according to Dr. Jack.

“Though the MRI findings with donepezil were measurable, this is still a very small effect. It’s not like this drug stopped the disease from progressing -- it just slightly slowed the rate,” he says.

The study involved taking a series of brain MRIs in 131 patients with mild cognitive impairment, starting with a baseline measurement before Vitamin E, donepezil or placebo was administered. The researchers found a positive treatment effect in measurements of the hippocampus: for APOE 4 carriers only, the rate of hippocampal atrophy was less in those treated with donepezil compared to those treated with placebo. The rate of hippocampal shrinkage in donepezil-treated APOE 4 carrier patients was 4.5 percent per year, versus 6.14 percent shrinkage in placebo-treated patients. Rates of shrinkage for cognitively normal people in their late 70s are approximately 1.4 percent per year. Vitamin E had no significant effect on atrophy for any patients. The researchers also found atrophy rates were greater in those who were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease over the course ofthe study.

(Source: Newswise)
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