Alzheimer's disease

Where Does Alzheimer's Treatment Go From Here?

Dec 29, 2016

In a disappointment to Alzheimer's patients and researchers, drugmaker Eli Lilly said in late November that a clinical trial of solanezumab, an experimental medication to treat the degenerative neurological condition, had failed.

What rats can remember may help people who forget.

Researchers are reporting evidence that rats possess "episodic memories," the kind of memories that allow us to go back in time and recall specific events. These memories are among the first to disappear in people who develop Alzheimer's disease.

The finding, which appears Thursday in Current Biology, suggests that rats could offer a better way to test potential drugs for Alzheimer's. Right now, most of these drugs are tested in mice.

A living history museum usually conjures up images of butter churns and anvils. At Den Gamle By (The Old Town) Museum in Aarhus, Denmark, you'll find all that. But tucked away in one corner of this museum, there's also something different — an entire apartment straight out of the 1950s.

The "House of Memories" is not usually open to the public, and it's not aimed at schoolchildren sent to learn about a distant and exotic past.

In 2008, Dana Walrath asked her mother Alice to move in with her. Alice's Alzheimer's disease had gotten worse, and even though she still had all her humor and graces, she could no longer take care of herself.

During the next two and-a-half years, Walrath and her mother connected through stories and memories, even though Alice didn't always recognize her daughter. Walrath, a medical anthropologist at the Vermont College of Medicine, in Burlington, Vt., looks back fondly on that time.

An experimental drug dramatically reduced the toxic plaques found in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease, a team reports in the journal Nature.

Results from a small number of patients who received a high dose of the drug, called aducanumab, hint that it may also be able to slow the loss of memory and thinking.

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