Colored light micrograph of brain tissue from an Alzheimer's disease sufferer. Both of the classic pathological features of this disease are seen here. Magnification: x50 at 6x7cm size.<br /> (Image/Simon Fraser, Science Source)

Colored light micrograph of brain tissue from an Alzheimer’s disease sufferer. Both of the classic pathological features of this disease are seen here. Both of these abnormalities disrupt the normal working of the brain. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease include memory loss (particularly of recent events), disorientation and mood changes. Death occurs after several years of decline, and there is no cure. Magnification: x50 at 6x7cm size.
(Image/Simon Fraser, Science Source)

Can a drug slow or even stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease? A massive new clinical trial conducted the Keck School of Medicine of USC’s Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute (ATRI) could help answer that question.

ATRI, based in San Diego, is launching the four-year study, which will examine data from about 1,400 people. The project, called the AHEAD 3-45 Study, will be conducted with funding from the National Institute on aging, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Japanese pharmaceutical company Eisai Inc

The study will be led by three prominent Alzheimer’s researchers, including Paul Aisen, director of ATRI.

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, and the problem is only growing worse. USC researchers say that by 2050, the number of Americans diagnosed with the disease will nearly double from the current total, to about 9 million.

Many scientists believe that accumulation of a sticky, toxic protein, or plaque, in the brain is the triggering event in Alzheimer’s. This memory-robbing plaque, called beta amyloid, is the target of the drug to be tested in the AHEAD 3-45 Study. That drug, called, BAN2401, is a man-made antibody that is delivered to the patient intravenously. It’s designed to bind to the beta amyloid and “tag” it so the body’s natural immune system can recognize it and clear it from the brain.

“We know that BAN2401 treatment is effective at reducing amyloid deposits in the brain,” Aisen said. “Our study will determine the imp act of amyloid removal on cognitive decline and biological markers of Alzheimer’s disease when administered to people who do not yet have substantial, irreversible damage from Alzheimer’s.”

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