There are two types of Alzheimer's disease clinical trials:
Treatments aimed at reducing symptoms. During this type of trial, new drugs and variations of existing drugs that aim to reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease are tested. Studies of existing drugs explore whether changing the dose, taking the medication on a different schedule (more or less often), or combining it with other medications might further reduce or delay symptoms.
Treatments aimed at slowing or stopping the disease.
During this type of trial, new drugs designed to slow or stop Alzheimer's disease are tested. Some of the experimental drugs being tested in clinical trials represent entirely new ways of treating the disease.
Treatments that are aimed at slowing or stopping the progression of disease have different biological targets, which fall under seven categories:
- Genetics & Epigenetics: These therapies may target certain genes, such as APOE, which can affect our risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Epigenetic processes regulate how much our genes are expressed.
- Inflammation: Chronic inflammation in the brain can accelerate Alzheimer’s disease and may be a trigger of the disease. That said, inflammation is also part of our normal immune responses and can protect the brain from damage.
- Misfolded Proteins: In Alzheimer’s disease, proteins including beta-amyloid and tau can misfold and become toxic. These misfolded proteins accumulate into plaques, tangles, and other aggregates if not cleared by the brain’s self-repair mechanisms.
- Mitochondria & Metabolic Function: All cells need energy to maintain healthy function, and neurons (i.e., brain cells) are among the highest energy users. As we age, mitochondria, the energy center of our cells, can become impaired as can other aspects of cellular metabolism.
- Neuroprotection: As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, neurons lose their connections and begin to die, causing the loss of memory and other essential cognitive functions. Neuroprotective strategies attempt to shield neurons from multiple causes of damage and death.
- Synaptic Activity & Neurotransmitters: Synapses are connections between our neurons. Neurotransmitters carry chemical signals across synapses, which is critical for memory and cognition.
- Vascular: Healthy blood flow is required for optimal brain function. Vascular damage can affect how misfolded proteins and toxins are removed and can limit the ability of neurons to get sufficient oxygen and vital nutrients.