A worldwide study is about to begin of three drugs researchers hope will prevent Alzheimer’s disease. It is being orchestrated at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

The areas where the most Alzheimer’s plaques typically form are highlighted in red and yellow above. (Courtesy; Tammie Benzinger, MD, PhD, Tyler Blazey)

The principal investigator in the trial is Doctor Randall Bateman. He says three drugs have been selected.

“The goal of the trial is to use these drugs to counteract the biological effects of Alzheimer’s disease in these individuals.”

The people in the study have inherited mutations that cause early-onset Alzheimer’s. The study will see whether any of the drugs prevent a loss of cognition in those people.

Bateman says work with two of the drugs will start right away.

“Those are antibodies which target a protein which is believed to be the cause of Alzheimer’s disease in these individuals. That protein is called amyloid beta. Each of the antibodies acts in different ways and attacks different kinds of this protein to try to counteract the effects to treat the disease. A third compound is targeting the production of this amyloid beta protein, and it’s being proposed and is likely to start likely after the trial starts.”

Bateman says the first part of the study will last about two years. In the best case scenario, one or more of the drugs would have a significant impact and help the cognition of patients.

“In that case, we would support and have already discussed with the regulatory agencies the possibility of registering that drug for use by the population. That could happen any time there is a signal that comes up. Our expectation is that’s likely, if it were to happen, to occur within the five-year period of the trial. That being said, if the drug had a really miraculous effect on cognition it could be earlier than that.”

The trial will be conducted by the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s Network Trials Unit (DIAN TU) at Washington University School of Medicine. Bateman says the strategy of this trial is different from most, that might test a single drug for effectiveness against a disease…

AUDIO:  Doctor Bateman explains how this story will be conducted, 1:31

Bateman says Alzheimer’s research has come a long way to be able to do this trial.

“It’s quite an exciting time in Alzheimer’s disease (research) where we now have the tools that we can look into the brain and see the changes of Alzheimer’s disease in real-time, as it’s happening. It’s those tools which have enabled and powered the possibility of being able to design and carry out this kind of an effective trial structure.”

See more at the University’s website.