Diagnosing and treating patients more effectively earlier will, even if you aren’t able to instigate a cure, offer the ability to modify the disease progression and slow or delay when brain damage occurs. In the case of Alzheimer’s, once the amyloid plaques (tangles of misshapen proteins) have accumulated in nervous tissue, it has so far been impossible to untangle or remove them.
Several retired American Football stars have ended up with chronic traumatic encephalophy (CTE), previously known as dementia pugilistica. It’s similar to Alzheimer’s disease in that the brain ends up with neurofibrillary tangles.
CTE has also been seen in soldiers who have experienced blast induced traumatic brain injury (bTBI) from improvised explosive devices (IEDs). I previously wrote on this blog about how nanotechnology may revolutionize the detection of TBI using a nanomaterial that changes color.
Research published in the May 16, 2012 issue of Science Translational Magazine by Lee Goldstein and colleagues from the Molecular Aging and Development Laboratory at Boston University & other institutions, compared CTE neuropathology in blast-exposed military veterans and athletes with repetitive concussion injury.
Research published online first today, and in the May 17 2012 issue of Nature describes promising results of a clinical trial with tetraplegics (all four limbs paralyzed) that allowed the control of an external robotic arm (DEKA arm) using an embedded microarray in the brain, the BrainGate neural interface system.
One of the two study participants who had the array implanted 5 years ago, was able to use her mind to control a robotic arm and serve herself coffee from a bottle, 15 years after she became completely paralyzed & unable to speak.
India to me conjures up thoughts of curry, cricket and call centers. When I think about the Indian pharmaceutical industry, global manufacturers of generics such as Ranbaxy, Natco and Dr Reddy’s Laboratories come to mind.
What I don’t associate India with, is pharmaceutical drug discovery and the development of new drugs.
Pharmaceutical R&D is not only expensive, but requires a high-degree of expertise and comes with a high risk of failure.
Companies in the United States, Europe and Japan still develop most new drugs.
My mother has Alzheimer’s disease – I first suspected some form of dementia when her friends told me that she didn’t dance anymore. Of course she insisted she did, but it was clear she had “forgotten” the steps in a way that was beyond the forgetfulness of getting older.
As a European snow bird she would travel to Malta each year to escape the damp, grey English winters. One year when I visited her in Malta, I noticed when she went up to the hotel dinner buffet, she could not “remember” where to return to.
Cancer Research UK issued a press release today about a phase 2 trial (GALA-5) in glioblastoma that caught my attention.
The trial, led by Colin Watts from the University of Cambridge, will treat patients with 5-Amino-Levulinic Acid (5-ALA), a metabolic marker of malignant glioma cells. 5-ALA is preferentially taken up by brain tumor cells and then converted into a strongly fluorescing porphyrin.
This conversion by the body of 5-ALA to a fluorescent chemical, shows the location of the glioblastoma when imaged under ultraviolet light.
The practical application of this is that it allows better identification of the tumor margins and avoids the removal of unnecessary brain tissue.
In a letter to the science journal Nature, published online on August 21, 2011, scientists from Northwestern University in Chicago report findings that could help develop drugs for patients with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
ALS is a progressive, fatal, degenerative motor neurone disease, which results in the inability to walk, get out of bed, move arms, hands, swallow or chew. Unlike Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive functions are not usually impaired, making it a particularly nasty disease when faced with awareness of disease progression.