Scientists Concerned Alzheimer’s Research Will Fail
Dr. Donald Weaver of Krembil Research Institute has been working for years on a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease based on the leading theory of the amyloid hypothesis. So far, however, his efforts have not yielded success.
The theory proposes that it is the beta-amyloid protein that leads to Alzheimer’s because of its presence in patients suffering from the disease.
It was an obvious target for researchers back when Weaver began. Scientists don’t know what this protein does or why the body makes it.
“It must be playing a pretty important role in the disease,” Weaver says in the video interview conducted by CBC.
Pharmaceutical companies have developed a series of different drugs aimed at the amyloid protein, but every time the drugs have failed in clinical trials.
This hypothesis has been the foundation of research for the past 25 years, and yet it is being called into question as all the treatments that seek to stop or slow the beta-amyloid clumping in the brain of patients with Alzheimer’s have failed one after another.
Scientists are now losing hope in the theory—they think that perhaps it might be fundamentally flawed. This means research into treating the disease may have to go back to square one and begin all over again.
There is a great deal about Alzheimer’s disease that scientists have yet to understand. Symptoms take years to appear and by the time of the diagnosis, the brain may be in such disarray that it is hard to reverse the process.
According to CBC, in January 2018, Pfizer, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, dropped its research into Alzheimer’s disease.
Weaver expressed his disappointment that some companies have halted their research because there is so much that needs to be discovered and the fewer companies that are doing research, the harder it will be to find a cure. However, he understands, given the expense and the failure rate.
Scientists are now looking into other aspects that may be a factor in the development of Alzheimer’s. According to the Chicago Tribune, one of these is brain inflammation. CBC states that another factor may be mitochondrial malfunction, which could affect the way cells use energy.
Weaver and other scientists have also isolated the Tau protein, which forms tangles in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. It clumps in the brain similarly to the clumping of amyloid, and scientists are trying to prevent that from happening.
Weaver spent months trying to find a way to stop Tau from clumping, but it ended up failing as well. But these failures haven’t dampened his desire to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. He told UHN that his goal is to find a drug that works for the disease.
Meanwhile, those who are plagued with the disease will have to continue to wait for a cure.
Alzheimer’s affects more than 500,000 Canadians.