New Thinking About Alzheimer's Treatment
Current therapies are the triumph of hope over experience.
Could Stem Cells Stem the Tide of AD? continued...
"Stem cells, although they're promising for other diseases,
it's not very likely practically that they'll be used for Alzheimer's disease,
because the way stem cell replacement is practiced in clinical research is by
surgically implanting stem cells into regions of the brain where there has been
degeneration, and that's fairly local in terms of Parkinson's disease and
Huntington's, but for the entire cerebral cortex you're talking about making
dozens of little holes in the skull," says Sam Gandy, MD, PhD, director of
the Farber Institute for Neurosciences at Thomas Jefferson University in
"There is a fairly new area focusing on identification of
stem cells that are still present in the adult brain that weren't thought to be
there," Gandy tells WebMD. "It's conceivable that if there were enough
of those in quantity or you could deliver them, and if they have enough
dividing potential you could stimulate them to replace the dying nerve cells in
their immediate environment, but that still is very complicated."
The job would involve turning on dormant stem cells, getting
them to change into the right kind of cell, and then getting them to move to
the part of the brain where they're needed to repair damage, a series of tasks
that are beyond our current capabilities, Gandy says.
Sheldon L. Goldberg, president and CEO of the Alzheimer's
Association, tells WebMD that few or none of the 800 or so grant applications
for research funding received by the association this year have been for stem
The State of Statins?
Observations that there appears to be an association between
the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins and a lower incidence of
Alzheimer's disease have prompted researchers to see whether these drugs could
also help prevent it. As reported by WebMD, several studies presented at the
conference here point to a link between heart disease risk factors and AD.
Statins also have anti-inflammatory effects that could be beneficial for
Alzheimer's disease patients, and there is intriguing evidence indicating that
the drugs may help to reduce the production of beta amyloid.