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Drug appears to clear protein plaques in Alzheimer's patients' brains

The experimental drug was successful in mice and a small trial with humans, with larger clinical trials expected to start soon.

By Stephen Feller
The experimental drug aducanumab reduced buildups of amyloid-beta plaques in the brains of mice and humans with Alzheimer's disease, in addition to slowing the loss of cognitive function, in a small trial. Photo by Juan Gaertner/Shutterstock
An experimental drug showed promise at clearing proteins in the brain linked to the development of Alzheimer's disease, according to the drug's manufacturer.
Aducanumab cleared amyloid-beta plaque buildups in the brains of Alzheimer's patients and appeared to slow declines in their cognitive function in a small trial, lending further support to the theory that the plaques play a large role in the disease and suggesting the drug could help more patients.
Interim results from the trial reported in a study published in the journal Nature showed the effects of the drug in tests with mice and humans.
Researchers treated 165 patients between 2012 and 2014 with either a placebo or aducanumab at doses of 1, 3, 6 or 10 milligrams per kilogram of weight for one year. Higher doses of the drug -- 3, 6 or 10 milligrams -- were shown, using positron emission tomography scans, to significantly decrease amyloid buildups.
The researchers note improvements to the cognitive state of participants receiving the drug affirm the idea that amyloid plaques are at least partly to blame for the progressive reduction in brain function and suggest the drug may have more success in larger clinical trials.
"These early studies of aducanumab show its effectiveness in removing amyloid plaque from the brain as well as its potential effect on the slowing of cognitive decline in patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease," Dr. Alfred Sandrock, executive vice president and chief medical officer at Biogen Inc., the drug's manufacturer, said in a press release.
The ENGAGE and EMERGE phase 3 clinical trials for aducanumab are currently recruiting patients and are expected to be concluded in early 2022.

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