Scientists and brain experts are excited about the discovery of a drug that could help to slow the progression of neurodegenerative brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Two drugs that are already used safely in humans are currently being hailed as ‘wonder-drugs’, in that, combined, they could provide a secure, protective effect for the brain to help stop brain diseases taking hold.
The best known drug of the pair is trazodone, which is already taken by patients with depression. The other, DBM, is being tested in cancer patients.
During tests, both of the drugs were found to prevent the emergence of signs of brain cell damage, and reduced brain shrinkage, which is a key feature in degenerative diseases of the brain.
An expert at the Medical Research Council’s Toxicology Unit in Leicester, Professor Giovanna Mallucci, has said, “It’s really exciting.”
The doctor has also admitted that she wants to start human clinical trials on dementia patients very soon.
So when can we expect to see this wonder-drug readily available? According to Prof. Mallucci, we may well know whether the drugs work within just two to three years.
She said, “We could know in 2-3 years whether this approach can slow down disease progression, which would be a very exciting first step in treating these disorders.
“Interestingly, Trazodone (one of the drugs) has been used to treat the symptoms of patients in later stages of dementia, so we know it is safe for this group.
“We now need to find out whether giving the drug to patients at an early stage could help arrest or slow down the disease through its effects on this pathway.”
Back in 2013, the team at Leicester had found a drug that stopped brain cells dying before. But, although the drug was safe and worked in animals, it was deemed to be unsafe for human use, as it caused organ damage.
Dr Doug Brown, from the Alzheimer’s Society, agreed that the potential of the drug was very interesting – “We’re excited by the potential of these findings, from this well conducted and robust study.”
Dr Brown also mentioned that as one of the drugs is already in use, it could be brought to market far sooner. He said, “As one of the drugs is already available as a treatment for depression, the time taken to get from the lab to the pharmacy could be dramatically reduced.”