New research shows that threatened drug treatments slow damage to the brain caused by dementia

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New research suggests that currently available anti dementia drugs not only alleviate the symptoms, but also reduce the destructive processes that kill brain cells in Alzheimer’s disease.

This exciting new scientific evidence has been published just as the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (Nice) meet to decide whether to go ahead with plans to ban drug treatments for Alzheimer’s disease on the NHS.

Researchers have published the first human research showing that anti cholinesterase drug treatments slow down the shrinkage of the brain in people with Alzheimer’s disease. In the study, published in the April edition of American Journal of Psychiatry, researchers studied 54 people with Alzheimer’s disease who were taking the drug treatment, and 93 people with Alzheimer’s who took a placebo. The researchers used Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans to measure the loss of volume in the brain. The study showed that drug treatment slowed the degeneration in the brain caused by the disease.

A second piece of new research published in the Neurobiology of Disease, June–July 2005, suggests the cause of this change. Researchers showed that people who were taking the drug treatments for Alzheimer’s diseases had fewer harmful beta-secretase enzymes than those who were on a placebo. Beta-secretase enzyme adversely affects the processing of amyloid proteins, one of the main proteins that leads to the damage of the brain in Alzheimer’s disease. The research is the first to show that the drug treatments directly influence the processing of amyloid proteins, which leads to the formation of plaques.

Professor Clive Ballard, director of research at the Alzheimer’s Society believes that hese are landmark studies in humans showing that the drugs actually change how Alzheimer’s disease damages the brain.

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