Research Ramps Up in Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, MS and ALS

Alzheimers concept

Research in neuroscience has been in the spotlight of late, with the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation, Critical Path Institute, Abbvie, AlzeCure Pharma and more.

Billionaires Invest in Alzheimer's Research

Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation executives sat down Thursday with Yahoo Finance to discuss progress in the field. Billionaires Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates and the NFL Players Association, among other donors, contributed $100 million to the early detection of Alzheimer's disease (AD).

Foundation chief science officer Mark Roithmayr said the donation, $50 million of which was received three years ago and the other half just recently, has helped generate optimism in the field because there are new diagnostic tools we're right on the brink of.

The interview Thursday capped a busy few weeks of neuroscience research. 

Possible Link Between Hospital-Treated Infections and Alzheimer's

Research published in PLoS Medicine showed a possible link between hospital-treated infections and Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

"These findings suggest that infectious events may be a trigger or amplifier of a pre-existing disease process, leading to clinical onset of neurodegenerative disease at a relatively early age," the authors wrote.

AbbVie Provides Update on Parkinson's, Alzheimer's Candidates

Pharma giant AbbVie presented 13 abstracts on neuroscience at the Movement Disorder Society's International Congress meeting in Madrid, Spain last week. AbbVie representatives unveiled data on the company's Parkinson's disease drug candidate ABBV-951 and BOTOX's treatment of spasticity.

FDA, NIH Launch Critical Path for Rare Neurodegenerative Diseases

The U.S. FDA and the NIH announced the Critical Path for Rare Neurodegenerative Diseases launch, which will research neurodegenerative diseases and "foster" treatments for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other rare neurodegenerative diseases.

The nonprofit Critical Path Institute will manage the public-private partnership.

"There is a crucial need to develop new treatments that can improve and extend the lives of people diagnosed with rare neurodegenerative diseases, including ALS. Collaboration across public and private sectors can accelerate the progress to address this urgent need," said FDA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Hilary Marston in a statement.

The Link Between COVID-19 and Neurological Diseases

Researchers scouring scientific literature documented that COVID-19 infections were linked to "manifestations of central and peripheral nervous system disease." Dr. Marcela Marsiglia, a diagnostic radiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston and colleagues, reviewed PubMed and Google Scholar publications.

"Acute and chronic neurologic and neuro-ophthalmic symptoms continue to be described and characterized as our understanding of infection and postinfectious complications evolve," Marsiglia and colleagues wrote. "Ocular manifestations were described early in the pandemic, and detailed descriptions of neuro-ophthalmic manifestations have since been reported."

AlzeCure Presents Positive Data on Alzheimer's Candidate

AlzeCure Pharma unveiled new Alzheimer's data from a Phase I clinical trial. The Stockholm, Sweden-based company said the data showed a "clear difference" in patients after receiving the company's Alzheimer's drug candidate ACD856. The company said ACD856 effectively crosses the blood-brain barrier and reaches - and activates - neural pathways in the brain. 

"These new data are very promising and show that the substance reaches and activates neural pathways in the brain, whose normal function is disrupted in diseases such as Alzheimer's," said Johan Sandin, AlzeCure's chief scientific officer, in a statement.

Study Suggests Link Between Epstein-Barr Viris and MS

Earlier in September, research published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine showed multiple sclerosis patients to have more T-cell receptors that recognize the Epstein-Barr virus than healthy people.

The virus causes infectious mononucleosis, suggesting a link between mono and MS. The researchers wrote that a history of Epstein-Barr virus infection "is necessary but not sufficient" for the development of MS.

COVID-19 May Increase Risk of Alzheimer's in Seniors

Another recently published study in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease linked COVID-19 infection in seniors to an increased Alzheimer's risk. 

"We know that covid can affect the brain, but I don't think anyone had looked at new diagnoses of Alzheimer's," Pamela Davis, one of the study's co-authors and a research professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, told the Washington Post.  

The researchers reviewed the electronic health records of more than 6 million Americans over age 65. The study didn't show COVID caused Alzheimer's but added to growing scientific thought that there's a link between the two.

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