Friday, 10 February 2012

Another breakthrough?

This will be really familiar to anyone in my situation.  Some research is announced which seems to promise, at some point in the distant future, a 'cure for Alzheimer's'.  This one was the lead item on Channel 4 news last night (but if the BBC covered it I missed it).

It is exciting that a new avenue for research has opened up.  But immediately you start to calculate the chances of your loved one surviving long enough to benefit  -  not great.  Then you note that the drug in question has serious side effects.  In S's case this is very bad news as she almost always seems to get whatever side effect are going with any 'safe' drug   -  and often fails to get any benefit either.  Then it's always a worry when the researchers, as in this case judging by their astonishment, have no idea how the drug works.

Then you remember that there is no agreement as to whether the amyloid plaque, which the drug seems to remove in the brains of mice, is actually the cause of the dementia.  Some researchers have suggested that it may not be a good idea to remove it even if you could.

It is interesting to note that in this case the researchers are claiming that removing the amyloid material did result in improved behaviour and memory because the recent stories about a 'wonder vaccination' seemed to stall with the discovery that the vaccine removed the amyloid but did not restore the memories.

And a spokesperson for the Alzheimer's Society is always wheeled on to warn against false hope, in this case stressing that what happens in a mouse's brain is not always comparable to what happens in the much more complex human brain.

Most likely we won't hear anything more about this for quite a long time.  Remember my recent herpes post about the exciting research from at least five years ago that appeared to show that a cheap and 'safe' anti-viral drug, Aciclovir, could have a similar effect to this skin cancer drug now being hyped?  By and large this has got us nowhere yet.

One thing's for sure.  There'll be yet another 'breakthrough' tomorrow.  Or next week.

In the meantime, we struggle on.

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