Australia scientists work on anti-Alzheimer's pill

  • World
  • Monday, 24 Jul 2006

By Rosemarie Francisco

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian mental health researchers have developed a once-a-day pill they believe might stop or slow the onset of Alzheimer's disease, with human trials expected within two months. 

A 15-month trial on mice showed the drug called PBT2 reduced the amyloid protein, which many scientists believe causes Alzheimer's, by 60 percent within 24 hours, said researchers at The Mental Health Research Institute of Victoria. 

Institute director George Fink said on Monday the drug attacked one of the root causes of Alzheimer's, a degenerative brain disease and the most common form of dementia, particularly in people over the age of 65. 

"We think the drug can help best at an early phase of the disease to intervene and prevent further development of the disease -- nipping it in the bud," Fink told local radio. 

The institute, which is working in collaboration with Prana Biotechnology Limited, made public its PBT2 trial results at the 10th International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease held in Madrid last week. 

The institute and Prana said mice that took the drug orally showed improved memory performance after four days. 

The tests required mice to remember the location of submerged platforms, requiring the mice to employ higher-level learning and spatial memory skills to successfully navigate a maze. 

"It was demonstrated that PBT2 could quickly and significantly improve spatial memory -- an important barometer of cognitive function," said Prana in a statement. 

The institute's tests also showed that PBT2 blocked the interaction between the amyloid protein and metals such as copper and zinc in the brain, stopping the development of Alzheimer's. Amyloid accumulates more rapidly in the presence of metals. 

Human trials of PBT2 in patients with early Alzheimer's are expected to begin in Sweden within two months, said the institute. 

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