CHICAGO For the first time, an experimental drug shows promise for halting the progression of Alzheimer's disease by taking a very new approach: breaking up the protein tangles that clog victims' brains.
The encouraging results, presented Tuesday at a medical conference, electrified a field battered by recent setbacks. The findings by Singapore-based TauRx Therapeutics Ltd. are only from a midstage study, so much more testing must be done.
But experts who saw the results for the drug Rember were heartened.
"These are the first very positive results I've seen" for helping patients maintain mental performance, said Marcelle Morrison-Bogorad, director of Alzheimer's research at the National Institute on Aging. "It's just fantastic."
The federal agency funded much of the early research that led to drugs like Rember that target the tangles of Alzheimer's, made up of a protein called tau. For decades, scientists have focused on a different protein sticky beta-amyloid deposits but have yet to get a workable treatment.
The four Alzheimer's drugs currently available just ease symptoms of the mind-robbing disease, which afflicts more than 5 million Americans and is mushrooming as the population ages.