Sea creature drug shows promise for Alzheimer's disease

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A new experimental drug is gaining attention for its novel approach to prevent Alzheimer's-related memory loss, as well as its unique ingredient — a bushy sea creature that resembles seaweed.

The drug, created by Neurotrope BioScience and known as Bryostatin-1, targets the damage to synapses and neurons in the brain caused by Alzheimer's. Focusing on synapses and neurons, rather than the toxic amyloids and taus that other Alzheimer's drug trials have, may help preserve memory loss and help brains recover, Neurotrope president Daniel Alkon, M.D., told Stat.

Results of an early trial of Bryostatin-1, which were released Monday, found that patients who received a low dose of the drug showed improved cognitive test scores after 12 weeks. Patients given a placebo lost points on the test. Those results may not be high enough to give the drug Food and Drug Administration approval, and the initial study was fairly short, Stat reported, but Bryostatin-1 has piqued some scientists' interest.

Mario Carrillo, chief science officer for the Alzheimer's Association, told Stat that while this recent study wasn't “big enough or long enough to show with certainty” that Bryostain-1 is an effective treatment, “there was a trend towards improvement in memory, thinking and behavior … in a population — people with moderate to severe Alzheimer's — that has received little attention recently in drug development.”