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Drug May Reduce Plaque in Brains of Alzheimer's Patients

Study Shows Gantenerumab Cuts Buildup of Plaque That's Linked With Alzheimer's Disease

Reducing Plaque Buildup continued...

That study will focus on patients with early Alzheimer's, as well as those with symptoms of the disease that are not severe enough to warrant a full diagnosis.

It's important to get to patients early, before the disease progresses too far, because there is no evidence that gantenerumab or any similar compound would be able to reverse the damage caused by Alzheimer's and restore mental abilities that have already been lost. Instead, it may at best slow or halt the disease.

Effects on Mental Skills Unclear

"There's nothing to suggest that it will have any effect on cognition or neurological abilities, only on progression," says David Teplow, PhD. "If the authors are correct, and it does clear plaques, will it help patients? We don't know."

Teplow, a professor of neurology and interim director of Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer's Disease Research at University of California, Los Angeles, was not involved with Santarelli's study, nor, he says, was he impressed with it.

"The number of patients was incredibly small," Teplow says, adding that the patients were also too dissimilar to make meaningful comparisons. There were other problems as well.

"What's not new, and what is discouraging, is that they [the researchers] see micro-hemorrhages and edema. That's a problem in these types of studies and a primary concern with respect to these kinds of treatments," says Teplow. "We need more studies to know if it safe or effective."

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