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Alzheimer News 4/12/2005
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New immune treatment shows early success

A product derived from human donor blood improved mental function in six out of seven individuals with Alzheimer's disease and prevented decline in the seventh, researchers reported in Miami at the 57th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology.

The product, called intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG), contains high concentrations of antibodies and other substances important in immune function. The idea of treating Alzheimer's with anti-body rich IVIG was sparked by recent research with genetically engineered "Alzheimer mice." The mice were better able to remember their way through mazes after treatment with antibodies to beta-amyloid, a protein thought to play a key toxic role in the Alzheimer brain.

"This report generated a lot of interest and the consensus seems clear that IVIG deserves further study," says William H. Thies, Ph.D., Alzheimer's Association vice president, medical and scientific affairs. "However, it's important to keep in mind that this study was extremely small and there was no control group receiving a placebo. It makes sense to move ahead to a larger placebo-controlled trial, but it would be premature to think about using IVIG as an Alzheimer treatment based on what we know now."

Another limitation of the study is the fact that the number of participants is not large enough for the effects on mental function to be conclusive. The study was designed to test whether it is safe for individuals with Alzheimer's disease to receive IVIG and to evaluate what the best dose would be.

IVIG is currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat a variety of infections and immune disorders. It is given like a blood transfusion by intravenous drip. The treatment regimens used in this small trial cost between $5,000 and $10,000 per month.

In previous research these investigators, led by Norman Relkin, M.D., Ph.D., and Marc Weksler, M.D., determined that individuals with Alzheimer's disease have much lower levels of antibodies to beta-amyloid than those without dementia. Reasoning that boosting antibodies with IVIG might help relieve Alzheimer symptoms, the team selected a batch of IVIG with especially high levels of anti-amyloid antibodies and administered various doses to eight individuals with Alzheimer's disease. The April 12 presentation reported results for the seven participants who had completed six months of treatment.

Dr. Mark Weksler has received Alzheimer's Association funding for work related to this study.

For more information, please see:

  • Information on IVIG from MedLine, the consumer health information database of the National Library of Medicine

  • Details about Dr. Mark Weksler's Alzheimer's Association research grant

 

Alzheimer's Association

Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's
Formed in 1980, the Alzheimer's Association is the world's leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer's care, support and research.