Tokyo University to join Alzheimer’s intl study

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - The University of Tokyo plans to participate in a U.S.-led international research project to determine whether the pre-onset preventive treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, which is found in more than half of dementia patients in Japan, can be effective.

If the research produces results, a preventive treatment might be introduced in Japan earlier.

The research is being promoted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a biomedical research agency in the United States, and other entities. Japan would be the third other country to participate in the U.S.-led research, after Canada and Australia.

Titled “A4,” the joint public-private sector project was launched in 2014 by the NIH in conjunction with major U.S. pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly and Company and others.

It has been found that an abnormal protein called beta-amyloid accumulates in the brain 10 to 20 years before the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The research therefore targets elderly people aged from 65 to 85 who have normal cognitive function, but were found through imaging tests to have accumulated beta-amyloid in their brains. 

The participants are separated into two groups — the members of one are given a drug via intravenous drip to eliminate the abnormal protein, and the members of the other get a placebo missing the active component. The objective is to see whether the drug is effective in preventing the lowering of cognitive function.

A total of 1,150 people around the world will take part in the research by next spring. Administration of the drug will continue for three years, with results anticipated as early as 2020.

In Japan, about 100 people will undergo brain imaging starting in late October, with 10 to 20 eventually participating in the research.

 “[The research] could change the direction of future Alzheimer’s treatment and is drawing attention around the world,” said Takeshi Iwatsubo, a professor of neuropathology at the University of Tokyo and leader of the research in Japan.

 “We want to get many people to participate and proceed steadily to bring about the latest results for domestic patients,” Iwatsubo said.

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