New drugs for Alzheimer’s getting closer

Research findings announced this week promise continued progress in developing effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston said that they have found an enzyme that activates the debilitating disease.

The new research found evidence that suggests that a brain substance called presenilin is the enzyme that controls production of amyloid beta proteins. Some scientists have earlier stated that presenilin plays a role in Alzheimer’s.

About 40 percent of people who have “familial” Alzheimer’s, which is an inherited form of the disease, have a mutation in their presenilin genes. The mutation makes them more susceptible the accumulation of characteristic amyloid plaques in their brains.

Opinions on the new findings are mixed at this early stage. Some doctors are hopeful that drugs designed to stop the enzyme could be in clinical trials within a few years. Others are less optimistic, saying that presenilin could regulate other things such as the immune system, which would make it much more difficult to develop drugs without major side effects.