A recent United States study has documented a case where an arthritis drug called Etanercept, (also known as Enbrel), caused a rapid improvement in the cognitive function of a patient with Alzheimer’s disease with minutes of the drug being injected into the patients spine.
According to the authors of the study, the patient initially appeared agitated and could not recall the state he lived in but just ten minutes after treatment, he was more relaxed, attentive, and could correctly name the state.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation, documents numerous cases where the mental state of patients with mid to late stage Alzheimer’s disease improved almost immediately following treatment with Etanercept.
Another case involved an 82 year old man that struggled with basic speech and could not remember the names of people or places. The man began treatment with 25mg of Etanercept in March 2005 and within a month was more fluent in speech and could perform activities such as removing his jacket and shoes which he could not do prior to receiving the medication. His Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) score improved from 0 to 4 points out of a possible 30 points. Normally MMSE scores decline by between 2 and 4 points each year in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
The authors of the study believe that the drug works by binding and inactivating a protein called tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha). TNF-alpha is thought to regulate neural impulse transmission in the brain. Excess TNF-alpha has been found in the spinal fluid of Alzheimer’s sufferers and high levels of the protein are believed to produce an inflammatory response and cause cell death in the brain.
According to Journal of Neuroinflammation editor Professor Sue Griffin of the University of Arkansas “It is unprecedented that we can see cognitive and behavioral improvement in a patient with established dementia within minutes of therapeutic intervention,”.
The study gives a new insight into the underlying processes of Alzheimer’s disease and may open new and exciting alternative treatments for a disease that has proved to be incurable to date. Most Alzheimer’s treatments currently on the market attempt to increase levels of acetylcholine the brain by inhibiting the function of the enzyme acetylcholinesterase. This is because shortages of acetylcholine in the brain appear to be linked to Alzheimer’s disease however these treatments have been ineffective to date.
Videos of the beneficial effects of Etanercept as reported by family members of patients who had received the treatment are available here.
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