There’s a lot we don’t know about Alzheimer’s, but a strong theory for its cause is the build-up of amyloid plaques in the brain. As the plaques collect, they begin interfering with the brain’s function, causing memory loss and other symptoms before terminating in death. Removing those plaques has been a primary focus, with researchers trying everything from ultrasound to snake venom, and one pharmaceutical company, Biogen, might have just cracked the code.
Biogen has been working with aducanumab, an antibody that’s shown promise in Alzheimer’s treatment in the past. A year-long study conducted by Biogen and the University of Zurich has found that it’s surprisingly effective. Taken once a month in a year-long trial by those in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, the antibody bonds to the plaques, allowing the body’s immune system to find and remove them. An even bigger positive is that the antibody was found to prevent cognitive decline; the study group showed stability in their cognition, while the control group saw steady decline over the year-long study.
There’s still far to go before aducanumab is on the market. We still need to see what any potential side effects may be, especially in older patients, and even if this is a cure for Alzheimer’s, we still need to discover what causes the disease in the first place. Nor will aducanumab help those in the later stages of the disease. But with a larger study already in progress, this is a positive sign that Alzheimer’s may soon be a treatable disease.