Alzheimer’s research is stuck on a ‘single, unproven hypothesis’. It’s time to explore new theories

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Image: Roche

Over the past decade we’ve seen failure after failure in clinical trials for neurodegenerative disease. Despite over 200 clinical trials, we still don’t have any meaningful therapeutics for Alzheimer’s.

Clinical research in this field has been stuck in a rut for several years, with the vast majority of trials focused on a single, unproven hypothesis. A unifying feature of neurodegeneration is the accumulation of sticky protein deposits within the brain, such as alpha-synuclein in Parkinson’s or amyloid-beta and tau in Alzheimer’s. Pharma companies have spent many years and billions of dollars attempting to reduce the quantity of these protein deposits.

Progress in this field depends upon finding new therapeutic targets with a more solid scientific rationale – and in 2020, we will see some exciting breakthroughs. One area where progress is being made is by studying inflammation within the brain.

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Selectively editing and controlling this side of the immune response has the potential to significantly reduce chronic and inappropriate neuroinflammation, potentially providing a potent new therapy. In 2020, we’ll very likely see the first early pre-clinical demonstrations ushering in a new era that offers hope to millions of patients across an increasingly ageing population.

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