Current Alzheimer's treatments temporarily improve symptoms of memory loss and problems with thinking and reasoning.
These Alzheimer's treatments boost performance of chemicals in the brain that carry information from one brain cell to another. However, these treatments don't stop the underlying decline and death of brain cells. As more cells die, Alzheimer's disease continues to progress.
Experts are cautiously hopeful about developing Alzheimer's treatments that can stop or significantly delay the progression of Alzheimer's. A growing understanding of how the disease disrupts the brain has led to potential Alzheimer's treatments that short-circuit basic disease processes.
Future Alzheimer's treatments may include a combination of medications, similar to how treatments for many cancers or HIV/AIDS include more than a single drug.
The following treatment options are among the strategies currently being studied.
TAKING AIM AT PLAQUES
Some of the new Alzheimer's treatments in development target microscopic clumps of the protein beta-amyloid (plaques). Plaques are a characteristic sign of Alzheimer's disease.
Strategies aimed at beta-amyloid include:
-- Recruiting the immune system. Several drugs -- known as monoclonal antibodies -- may prevent beta-amyloid from clumping into plaques or remove beta-amyloid plaques that have formed and help the body clear the beta-amyloid from the brain. Monoclonal antibodies mimic the antibodies your body naturally produces as part of your immune system's response to foreign invaders or vaccines.
The monoclonal antibody solanezumab did not demonstrate any benefit for individuals with mild or moderate Alzheimer's disease. It's possible that solanezumab may be more effective when given earlier in the course of the disease. The drug seemed safe in recent studies, and solanezumab continues to be evaluated in the preclinical stage of the disease.