Scientists have selected three different types of Alzheimer's drugs to be tested in the first large-scale international attempt to prevent the disease in people who are otherwise doomed to get it.
It is one of three studies with the same goal that will start early next year. This one involves 160 people from the United States, Britain and Australia with a variety of gene mutations that cause Alzheimer’s with absolute certainty. Most of the test subjects will have no symptoms yet of the degenerative disease that ravages the brain, destroying memory and thought. But they would be expected to start showing signs of problems with memory and thinking within five years unless the drugs work. The hope is that by intervening early, the disease might be headed off.
Another study starting next year involves an extended family in Colombia that shares the same mutation. Anyone who inherits that mutated gene get Alzheimer’s disease. A third study will involve people in the United States age 70 and older who seem perfectly healthy and who do not have any known Alzheimer’s mutations but in whom, brain scans show, the disease is starting to manifest itself.
In recent years, as studies involving people who already have Alzheimer’s have failed, researchers increasingly have called for studies in those who do not yet have the disease, arguing that the time to intervene is before the brain is irreversibly damaged. So the new study with people who are destined to get Alzheimer’s unless a drug can stop it is a way to test that idea.