Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, with around 60-70 percent of all dementia cases stemming from this illness. It is a deadly disease that has a huge impact on sufferers and their relatives alike. Yet despite this, there is currently a lack of preventive and disease-modifying treatments.
Alzheimer’s disease causes nerve cells in the brain to die. The parts of the brain usually affected are the hippocampus (the brain’s memory center), the temporal and parietal lobes. The disease starts with amyloid beta (Aβ) protein beginning to clump in the brain, which ultimately form the amyloid plaques so characteristic of the illness. These have a negative impact on nerve cell function and lead, inter alia, to changes in the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. These neurotransmitters, such as acetylcholine and glutamate, are necessary for nerve cells to communicate with each other and for the normal operation of the brain. With time, the ability of nerve cells to survive also deteriorates.
The reasons why some individuals develop the disease while others do not are as yet unknown, but it is clear that accumulations of Aβ amyloid in the brain play a central part in Alzheimer’s. The most common risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s are old age and genetic proclivity. The disease may appear early, between the ages of 40 and 65, but is most common after 65.
The video below gives a brief introduction to Alzheimer’s disease
Today, substantial sums are invested in medical research into Alzheimer’s due to the extensive human suffering, and the costs to healthcare and society are considerable. Total global costs for dementia-related illnesses are estimated at around USD 1 trillion globally in 20181, which is expected to triple by 2050. The lack of effective symptomatic treatments and efficacious treatments for the course of the disease represent an urgent medical need. The few approved drugs sold in today’s market have only a limited symptom-relieving effect and have problematic side effects. Thus there is a very urgent medical need for new symptomatic and disease-modifying treatments. A disease-modifying therapy for Alzheimer’s is considered capable of generating more than USD 10 billion in annual sales.
Usually, the first signs of Alzheimer’s are impaired memory, difficulties in finding words, expressing oneself and understanding. Difficulties with the concept of time are also common. Eventually, sufferers experience orientation problems in their surroundings, and difficulties reading, writing and counting or managing practical tasks. Some have problems with perception and difficulty in recognizing what they see, and reasoning and planning become more difficult. With the passage of time, sufferers become more and more dependent on help from relatives and/or care services. Because a characteristic of the disease is its gradual onset, it can be difficult to identify when the problems actually began. Symptoms may also vary from person to person.
It is estimated that around 150,000 people in Sweden are living with dementia diseases, a figure that is expected to double by 2050. Every year, around 25,000 people are affected, resulting in major care and healthcare costs for society. The direct costs in Sweden are greater than those caused by cancer and cardiovascular diseases together.
As previously mentioned, Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, and worldwide around 47 million people were estimated to be living with dementia-related diseases in 2015, a figure that is expected to rise to 75 and 132 million sufferers by the years 2030 and 2050 respectively. Geographical distribution and the anticipated increase in dementia is shown in the figure below.
Today there are two classes of symptomatic drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Cholinesterase Inhibitors: The drug allows the neurotransmitter acetylcholine to work longer in the brain and thus boost nerve cell communications. The drug does not slow down progression of the illness, it only relieves the symptoms.
- NMDA inhibitors: The drug affects glutamate signaling, which plays an important part in nerve cell communications.
However, the effect of cholinesterase and NMDA inhibitors is usually limited and associated with side effects. The need for alternative drugs with better symptom-relieving effect and fewer side effects is thus urgent.
AlzeCure’s NeuroRestore and Alzstatin platforms act in a completely different manner in their treatment of the disease than the drugs described above. NeuroRestore seeks to improve communication between nerve cells by means of a unique mechanism so that memory function is improved in the patient while also avoiding difficult side effects. Alzstatin is aimed at preventing the very occurrence of the illness by acting on and preventing the formation of amyloid plaques.