Health Scan: New drug reduces brain damage associated with Alzheimer's

Successful clinical trials of new substance AL-108 show it improves memory and learning in people with predictors of Alzheimer's disease.

alzheimers brain 88 (photo credit: )
alzheimers brain 88
(photo credit: )
Successful clinical trials of a new substance called AL-108, based on the research of Tel Aviv University clinical biochemist Dr. Illana Gozes, show it improves memory and learning in people with mild cognitive damage that is usually a predictor of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Allon Therapeutics, a clinical-stage biotechnology company developing treatments for major neurodegenerative conditions, is based in Vancouver and listed on the stock exchange. It was founded by Gozes, who is also its chief scientific officer. The drug has been found to reduce the physical brain damage associated with the pathological hallmarks of AD, which affects about 7.5 percent of people over 65 and a third of those over 85. The active ingredient in AL-108 is a short protein called NAP that is part of a long protein dubbed ADNP. Gozes and colleagues discovered ADNP in the 1990s, but more recently discovered that it's responsible for monitoring about 400 different genes connected with differentiation of cells in general, and especially neurons, in the embryos. The TAU team's research showed that ADNP has a very important role in brain function, but since it's a very long protein, a drug could not be based on it. "So we looked for a small section of it that could preserve the vitality of the neurons, and that's how we got to NAP," says Gozes. "We believe that this material can serve as a basis for a wide variety of drugs and limit damage to the brain." The research has appeared in a number of international journals such as the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, Developmental Biology and the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Gozes is not only a founder of Allon Therapeutics and TAU, but she also directs the Adams Super Center for Brain Studies at the university, serves or has served as a member (or chairman) on several faculty/university/national and international committees, and is currently editor-in-chief of the Journal of Molecular Neuroscience. CUSTOMIZED PILL CARD The Web site of the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) enables anyone with an online computer to create an illustrated medication schedule called a "Pill Card" to be printed out free for reminding them when to take medications. The AHRZ, a part of the federal department of health and human services, said a quarter of all US residents fail to take drugs as prescribed. Taking the correct number of pills on schedule is very important when coping with chronic diseases, the agency said. Medication non-adherence costs an estimated $100 billion annually in hospital admissions, doctor visits, lab tests and nursing home admissions, it added. Any English speaker in the world can download a customized Pill Card at DON'T COMPLAIN ABOUT HOUSEWORK Doing housework - or any other type of vigorous physical activity - for just 20 minutes a day is enough to boost mental health as well as physical health, according to to a large study just published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The findings are based on a representative sample of almost 20,000 men and women who were quizzed for the Scottish Health Survey about their state of mind and how much weekly physical activity they engaged in. Over 3,000 participants were identified as suffering from stress or anxiety. Any form of daily activity was found to be linked to a lower risk of distress, when other influential factors, such as age, gender, and the presence of a long-term condition were taken into account. The types of beneficial activities included housework, gardening, walking and sports, although the strongest effect was seen for sports, which lowered the risk of distress by 33%. While just 20 minutes improved mental state, the more activity a person indulged in, the lower were their chances of psychological distress, the researchers found. ISRAEL-US MEDICAL PARTNERSHIPS Seventy doctors and nurses from the US recently came to Israel to form partnerships with their counterparts here. The 40 physicians affiliated with Hadassah Physicians Councils came to Jerusalem for a study-program in cooperation with Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO) doctors run in association with the Emory University School of Medicine. One of the participants was Dr. Rachel Schoenberger, whose volunteer work for Hadassah ultimately prepared her to rise in the administrative structure of American medicine. "When I was asked to take a leadership role at the hospital, I knew about decision-making, reviewing credentials, holding effective meetings and recruiting workers through Hadassah. You didn't get that in medical school." HMO director-general Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef personally briefed the doctors on the complexities of Israel's medical system, and the doctors also heard about Hadassah's advances in trauma medicine and stem cell research. At the same time, the Hadassah Nurses' Council ran its own mission with 28 nurses from the US, who formed professional collaborations with their Israeli counterparts at Hadassah University Medical Centers. They spent a a day "shadowing" Hadassah nurses in a variety of departments. Judith Levy, a community health nurse from Washington, DC, said: "For me, it was special to be able to talk to colleagues who have a similar mission to serve their population." The establishment of professional associations geared to doctors, nurses and lawyers is a relatively new step for the 96-year-old women's organization. "More women today are involved in the working world than they were in the early years of Hadassah's establishment," says Hadassah Women's Zionist Organization of American national president Nancy Falchuk, a nurse who founded the Nurses' Council. "Professional councils were a natural extension of the way we bring together Zionist professionals."