Chinese drug regulator approved a medicine that improves cognitive functions in patients with mild to moderate levels of the disease.
- It was first identified in 1906 by the German physician, Alois Alzheimer.
- It is a progressive disorder that causes brain cells to waste away and die.
- Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia — a continuous decline in thinking, behavioral and social skills that disrupts a person’s ability to function independently.
For nearly two decades, doctors treating Alzheimer’s patients have been frustrated by the lack of advance in medical research. The most advanced drug that is used to treat the disease was developed in 2003.
About the new drug:
- The new drug, Oligomannate, is a sugar derived from a Chinese seaweed which works by modifying gut bacteria to reduce inflammation in the brain.
- The biotech company that has developed the drug claims that a clinical trial on 818 people “demonstrated solid and consistent cognition improvement among those treated versus a control group”.
- The method adopted by Chinese researchers is a departure from Alzheimer’s drug development that has focussed on attacking the plaque that forms in the brains of patients; this protein build-up interferes with neural signaling.
This is a significant breakthrough because drugs currently in use treat the neuro-degenerative disorder symptomatically at best, leaving doctors almost helpless about elderly patients who may forget familiar facts and, at times, even the faces of family members.
- In China, the regulatory agency has asked Green Valley (the Chinese biotech company that has developed the drug) to conduct more research on Oligomannate’s safety.
- The complete data on how exactly the cognitive function improved for patients on the drug versus those on placebo — and how meaningful that was in the patients’ lives — is still not known outside select circles in China.
- Moreover, Oligomannate must be tested on diverse groups of people to be affirmed as a panacea for Alzheimer’s globally. These trials need to include many more than 818 individuals.
- Once knowledge on the mode of action of the Chinese seaweed spreads among medical researchers worldwide, more potent compounds could be developed to target Alzheimer’s.