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Jefferson neuroscientists studying new type of Alzheimer's drug to halt disease progression

Neuroscientists at the Farber Institute for Neurosciences at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia will begin a clinical trial testing a new type of drug that attacks amyloid, the protein substance that accumulates in the brains of Alzheimer's disease patients. The buildup of amyloid and the formation of tangles and plaques in the brain are thought to be major causes of the mind-robbing ravages of Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers led by Barry Rovner, M.D., director of Clinical Alzheimer's Disease Research at the Farber Institute for Neurosciences at Thomas Jefferson University and professor of psychiatry and neurology at Jefferson Medical College, and Samuel Gandy III, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Farber Institute for Neurosciences and professor of neurology and biochemistry and molecular pharmacology at Jefferson Medical College, are participating in a multicenter clinical trial to examine the effectiveness of a drug, Alzhemed, in halting the development of amyloid plaques and the progression of the disease in individuals with mild to moderate Alzheimer's.

Currently available medications such as Aricept, Reminyl, Exelon and Namenda treat only disease symptoms, explains Dr. Rovner.

Alzhemed is designed to act differently. "What's exciting about Alzhemed is that it works directly on the amyloid protein," says Dr. Rovner. Alzhemed is being investigated as a "disease-modifying" medication, he notes, with the objective to change the disease. "The hope is that it stabilizes the course of the disease, modifying its progression," Dr. Rovner says. "It's aimed at what is thought to be the central problem in the disease the buildup of protein in the brain that disrupts its message system."

The drug actually physically combines with amyloid to prevent plaque formation. It also is expected to inhibit the inflammatory response associated with amyloid buildup in Alzheimer's.

Drs. Rovner and Gandy will lead the Jefferson participa
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