Could a seaweed-based drug offer relief from the ravages of Alzheimer’s?

[China] Scientists in eastern China have discovered that a drug derived from seaweed can regulate bacteria in the human gut and could bring relief to patients suffering from mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

The drug, GV-971, has passed stage III clinical trials and is waiting on approval from China’s Food and Drug Administration, news website reported on Monday.

A study of 818 patients, led by Professor Geng Meiyu at the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, provided the first solid evidence to link the debilitating brain condition to gut bacteria. Its findings were published on the online peer-review journal Cell Research on Friday.

Geng and her colleagues confirmed that their drug could change dominant colonies of gut bacteria in Alzheimer’s patients and reduce the release of chemicals such as phenylalanine and isoleucine that stimulate the growth and spread of inflammatory cells that give rise to the brain condition.

There are about 50 million people around the world with Alzheimer’s, and that is likely to rise to 152 million by 2050, according to the World Alzheimer Report 2018. There is no cure for the condition.

China has six million people with Alzheimer’s and about two-thirds of those were at mid-level or severely affected by the disease when diagnosed, missing the optimum intervention time, Xu Yifeng, president of the Shanghai Mental Health Centre, was quoted by Shanghai news website as saying.

Patients who took the drug in clinical trials reported almost no side effects, researchers said. Recent studies suggested that bacterium in the digestive system could affect brain activities and research into this finding is continuing.

Geng’s team submitted GV-971 to regulators in November for final approval before mass production begins. This followed three stages of clinical trials that showed “significant improvement” in Chinese patients at the early or medium stage of Alzheimer’s.

An official at the drug approval department said the CFDA would not comment on individual cases.

“Hopefully, we can get a green light by the end of this year,” Xie Zuoquan, a scientist involved in the research, said.

Researchers said that understanding how gut bacteria contributed to Alzheimer’s could lead to other developments. Routine health checks could include bacteria analysis to detect early onset of the brain disease, they said.

Guo Hui, president of the Shanghai Neuromedical Centre, said he was interested in GV-971 because there was no “medical equipment or medicine” that could treat Alzheimer’s beyond palliative measures.

“Recent literature showed that at least two foreign-branded drugs we used a lot for dementia patients were proven to be ineffective,” he said.

“We doctors can only prescribe medicines targeting the symptoms of Alzheimer’s patients, such as poor memory and mental disorders. But we can do nothing to prevent the disease worsening,”

Zhu Shu, a professor from the school of life sciences at the University of Science and Technology of China, in Hefei, southeastern Anhui province, said Geng’s team might have discovered a “Chinese solution” for the treatment for Alzheimer’s.

“Whether this can bring revolutionary changes is to be assessed after it is available on the market and used by more patients,” Zhu wrote on the Shanghai institute’s website.

“But this study has boosted our confidence in treating Alzheimer’s and offered substantial experimental data on expanding treatment methods.”

David Holtzman, a neurologist from Washington University School of Medicine who has studied neurodegenerative conditions since the early 1990s, wrote in Cell Research: “There is no question that this data further supports the emerging idea that modulation of the gut microbiome via treatments such as GV-971, or other strategies, should be further explored as novel strategies to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.”


Photo: Chinese scientists are awaiting approval of their seaweed-based drug that could ease the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. Shutterstock

View original article at: Could a seaweed-based drug offer relief from the ravages of Alzheimer’s?

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