A vitamin B pill that drastically lowers blood levels of homocysteine could one day be used to prevent dementia

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A vitamin B pill that drastically lowers blood levels of the toxic amino-acid homocysteine could one day be used to prevent dementia, and save health services billions of $'s annually.

Clinical trials, starting in January 2005, will seek to confirm that adding the B vitamins to a powerful antioxidant results in “prompt, striking and sustained clinical improvement” in patients.

The move follows a licensing agreement this week between COBALZ Limited a U.K. company specialising in homocysteine research, and Pamlab L.L.C, a U.S. company providing high-quality pharmaceuticals for general practices, neurology, cardiology and internal medicine.

It will enable a team led by Dr. Ramon Diaz-Arrastia of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, to determine whether the antioxidant together with high-dose B vitamins is superior to standard B-vitamin supplements in slowing the rate of cognitive decline and the accumulation of MRI abnormalities in Alzheimer's disease patients.

High blood levels of homocysteine are a risk factor for stroke and dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Raised levels damage nerves and blood vessels, and lead to a loss of brain tissue in patients.

Although homocysteine can be lowered by standard B vitamin supplements it is not yet known whether these can be used to treat or prevent dementia. The few small studies to date are disappointing.

However, dementia is also associated with ‘free radicals’ which oxidise and damage an enzyme that breaks down homocysteine. COBALZ has found that adding a powerful antioxidant to B vitamins lowers homocysteine levels even further and results in prompt, striking and sustained clinical improvement in patients.

Neil McCaddon, Global Head of Licensing & Corporate Development for COBALZ, said: “We are very excited about the possibilities, and hope to announce some real breakthroughs for sufferers of dementia, and their carers.”

Barry LeBlanc, President of Pamlab L.L.C., said: “Pamlab is very excited to incorporate COBALZ technology into its product line addressing hyperhomocysteinemia, and its role in mild cognitive impairment, vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”

Alzheimer's disease is the leading cause of dementia in the elderly, afflicting an estimated 4.5 million people in the U.S. alone. COBALZ is now actively seeking other licensing and development partners for the rest of the global market.

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