Study into early Alzheimer's disease treatments
The New Therapeutics into Alzheimer's Disease (NTAD) study is looking to detect markers of the disease before symptoms show. These markers for the disease will be used to test whether experimental treatments can delay, or even prevent, the progression of the disease.
New Therapeutics in Alzheimer's Disease
Universities don't make drugs – that's the job of pharmaceutical companies. To speed up the process, a new study into early Alzheimer's disease treatments, called NTAD, has brought together academic and industry scientists and is using the latest scanning technology to innovate research that will lead to drug discovery.
The New therapeutics in Alzheimer's Disease (NTAD) study, supported by Dementias Platform UK (DPUK), is testing new brain scans that are revealing early changes in the brain that are a signature of Alzheimer’s disease. These markers for the disease will be used to test whether experimental treatments can delay, or even prevent, the progression of the disease.
DETECTING EARLY ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE.
Alzheimer's disease accounts for over 60% of all dementias in the world. With few effective treatments, researchers are looking for new ways to slow or prevent the disease. The New Therapeutics in Alzheimer's Disease (NTAD) study into early Alzheimer's disease treatments is developing reliable 'biomarkers' – biological characteristics – that are sensitive to early Alzheimer's disease. With these we will be able to treat the disease before symptoms start.
Across two sites – Cambridge and Oxford – NTAD is recruiting 100 patients and 30 healthy people. The study is using magnetoencephalography (MEG) scanners to detect and test biomarkers to find reliable indicators of early Alzheimer's disease. Consistent and reliable indicators for early Alzheimer's will give industry partners the tools needed to assess whether treatments slow or prevent Alzheimer's disease and should be tested in drug trials.
AMYLOID PROTEINS AND MEMORY PROBLEMS
Treating Alzheimer's disease early is vital. Damaging amyloid proteins, the hallmark of Alzheimer's disease, build up years before symptoms show and result in irreversible damage to the brain. For this reason, NTAD is focusing on detecting the disease at an earlier stage so that industry can develop treatments that stop the disease before symptoms start.
BIOMARKERS FOR EARLY ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE
Although it is still early in the NTAD study, interim findings from the Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre have identified subtle changes in brain cell activity that indicate early Alzheimer's disease. Follow up scans of the participants after a year has now started and will establish whether these biomarkers can be used to monitor which compounds slow brain cell decline.
RECRUITING VOLUNTEERS NEAR OXFORD FOR ALZHEIMER'S STUDY
As part of the NTAD study, volunteers are given memory and blood tests and PET, MRI and MEG scans. Researchers ask a small number of participants to repeat their MEG scans after two weeks to check the reliability of results. After a year, the researchers will invite volunteers back for a follow-up scan.
MEG SCANS DETECTING BRAIN CELL ACTIVITY
The difference between MEG and other scans is that it records the speed of brain activity in the millisecond time resolution. MEG scans visualise the early signatures of synaptic dysfunction – decline in brain cell activity – in Alzheimer's disease before symptoms show. By comparison MRI, the more common form of brain imaging measures slow changes in blood oxygenation levels in seconds.
COLLABORATION BETWEEN INDUSTRY AND ACADEMIA
NTAD is a collaboration between AstraZeneca, Janssen, Lilly and Oxford, Cardiff and Cambridge universities. It hopes to end the cycle of promising drugs failing at the point of drug trials.