Bangalore scientists claim breakthrough in Alzheimer's drug
Clinical trials of Ayurvedic medicine on humans pending
Bangalore scientists have demonstrated a complete cure for Alzheimer’s in mice in one month using a plant extract used in Ayurvedic system of medicine, opening up a new window of hope for thousands of human Alzheimer patients.
The researchers from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, were brimming with excitement. The herbal extract administered to Alzheimer's-affected mice produced “dramatic improvements” in 21 days and “after 30 days they were no different from normal mice,” said Vijayalakshmi Ravindranath, professor and chair at the Centre for Neuroscience, IISc, presenting her latest findings at the Indian Science Congress here.
Even though they have patented the herbal formulation, the scientists do not want to disclose the plant's name.
The breakthrough, to be published shortly in a leading scientific journal, may lead to a new treatment for Alzheimer's disease once scientists determine the dose and undertake a proper toxicology and human clinical trial, which would take a few years.
Alzheimer’s disease affects higher cognitive functions, including causing trouble with language and long-term memory loss. It is one of the two commonest neurodegenerative disorders, which has no treatment at the moment.
Doctors offer symptomatic treatment, which is akin to using anacin for headache without knowing the cause of the headache. India currently has a whopping 3.7 million Alzheimer’s patients whose numbers are expected to double.
The IISc team was inspired to explore the potential of the herb used in Ayurveda by P K Warrior, a 90-year-old practitioner of Indian System of Medicine from famous Arya Vaidya Sala, Kottakkal in Kerala.
In a laboratory set-up, trained mice can easily pick up food offered as a bait, but a mouse with Alzheimer’s disease never learns the ability. When mice aged between 10 months to 24 months were given the herbal extract orally for 30 days, the results were dramatic. “For mouse the dose was 1 gm per kilogram of body weight, which is on a higher side. It was a semi-purified compound that was used in animal trials. For humans, we want to further purify the compound to lower the dose further,” she told Deccan Herald.
In Alzheimer’s patients, the amount of a protein called A-beta increases abnormally and creates plaques in the form of sheets in brain tissues. The herbal extract can suck out the plaques completely even when administered orally.