Hunter researchers are hopeful a new trial will help show the benefits of using an existing drug to manage the progression of Alzheimer's disease and short term memory loss.
Hunter New England Health's Neuropsychiatry Service is recruiting participants for a study trialling the use of the drug Deferiprone, which is traditionally used to treat children with blood disorders, to investigate whether removing iron in the brain slows cognitive decline in patients with the disease.
Hunter New England Health neurologist and University of Newcastle Conjoint Professor, Peter Schofield, explained that this study offers a great opportunity to look further into a potential disease-modifying agent.
"Scientists have long known that the slow build-up of a substance known as amyloid in the brain, determines whether people will eventually experience Alzheimer's disease, and a recent study has shown higher levels of brain iron and the presence of amyloid, is associated with poorer memory and language skills," he said.
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"Cognitive abilities like short-term memory, executive function and language ability declined much faster in people with high brain iron levels and high amyloid levels, even if they were otherwise healthy, than those with low brain iron who were also amyloid positive."
These results suggest that iron acts together with amyloid, to speed up the Alzheimer's disease process and those individuals with high amyloid but low iron will also eventually go on to develop Alzheimer's disease, but much later than their high-iron counterparts.
The study, which is known as Deferiprone to delay dementia or the '3D study', is being led by the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, in partnership with the District's Alzheimer's disease clinical trials team, based at the Mater Mental Health Centre in Waratah.
The team is looking to recruit approximately 170 people who are at least 55 years of age and in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease in the Hunter region.
Participants will be required to attend six consultations over a 12 month period for monitoring purposes, undergo regular blood tests and be supported by a family member or study partner, who can answer questions relating to the participants' symptoms.
"Currently, there is no effective treatment for Alzheimer's disease, however this study provides a great opportunity to investigate further," Professor Schofield said.
"My experience has shown that community members get involved with our trials in an effort to contribute to discovering new therapies for the disease that may one day help their children or grandchildren."
Those interested in participating in the study are encouraged to contact the HNE Health Neuropsychiatry Service clinical trials team on 4033 5704.
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