A team of Canadian neuroscientists has found that a daily dose of the non-prescription painkiller ibuprofen (Advil) can prevent Alzheimer’s, just as a daily baby aspirin can help stave off heart attacks.
In a new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, Vancouver researchers reported ibuprofen can help susceptible individuals ward off Alzheimer’s by targeting inflammation linked to proteins that accumulate in the brain that are precursors to the memory-robbing disorder.
The researchers, led by Dr. Patrick McGeer, have also developed a saliva test that can measure levels of the proteins as a way to identify individuals at risk who may benefit ibuprofen and possibly other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) years before symptoms of dementia emerge.
McGeer, president and CEO of Vancouver-based Aurin Biotech Inc., said his latest research is based on measuring the concentration of the peptide amyloid beta protein 42 (Abeta42), which is linked to Alzheimer’s and also secreted in saliva.
Individuals with high levels of Abeta42 — two to three times higher than normal — are likely to develop Alzheimer’s because such proteins accumulate in the brain. Such buildups cause inflammation, gum brain function and communication between brain cells, and ultimately leading to death.
McGreer added that, with as little as one teaspoon of saliva, it is possible to predict whether an individual is likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and may benefit from taking NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen.
“What we’ve learned through our research is that people who are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s exhibit the same elevated Abeta 42 levels as people who already have it; moreover, they exhibit those elevated levels throughout their lifetime so, theoretically, they could get tested anytime,” said McGeer.
“Knowing that the prevalence of clinical Alzheimer’s Disease commences at age 65, we recommend that people get tested 10 years before, at age 55, when the onset of Alzheimer’s would typically begin. If they exhibit elevated Abeta 42 levels then, that is the time to begin taking daily ibuprofen to ward off the disease.”
McGreer noted that most clinical trials of new Alzheimer’s treatments involve patients who are already experiencing symptoms — “when the therapeutic opportunities in this late stage of the disease are minimal” which is why “every therapeutic trial has failed to arrest the disease’s progression.”
But his team’s findings offer the potential for combatting Alzheimer’s before symptoms surface, making treatment success more likely.
“Our discovery is a game changer,” he said. “We now have a simple test that can indicate if a person is fated to develop Alzheimer’s disease long before it begins to develop. Individuals can prevent that from happening through a simple solution that requires no prescription or visit to a doctor. This is a true breakthrough since it points in a direction where AD can eventually be eliminated.”
The Alzheimer’s Association estimates more than 5 million Americans suffer from the disease, which is the leading cause of dementia, and that a new case is identified every 66 seconds. The annual healthcare costs tied to dementia now total $259 billion — a figure projected to rise to $1.1 trillion by 2050 as the number of cases are expected to triple in that time, unless new treatments are developed.
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