Experts have said that a new drug designed to stop Huntington’s, which is a disease that can progress to dementia, could be the greatest breakthrough in neurodegenerative diseases for half a century.
Researchers at University College London have successfully injected the experimental drug into spinal fluid which has reduced toxic proteins in the brain of affected patients.
Huntington’s results in the death of brain cells which sees patients’ movement, behaviour, memory and general cognitive ability impacted. Patients can have similar symptoms to people living with dementia and it can progress to dementia, which is placing huge demand on care providers.
The initial trial involved 46 patients who were injected with the drug at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London. Doctors are not calling the drug a cure and the trial will now have to be rolled out across a greater number of people before it can be declared a success.
Prof Sarah Tabrizi, the lead researcher and director of the Huntington’s Disease Centre at UCL, told the BBC: “I’ve been seeing patients in clinic for nearly 20 years, I’ve seen many of my patients over that time die.
“For the first time we have the potential, we have the hope, of a therapy that one day may slow or prevent Huntington’s disease. This is of groundbreaking importance for patients and families.”
Meanwhile, Prof John Hardy, who was awarded the Breakthrough Prize for his work on Alzheimer’s, told the BBC: “I really think this is, potentially, the biggest breakthrough in neurodegenerative disease in the past 50 years.
“That sounds like hyperbole – in a year I might be embarrassed by saying that – but that’s how I feel at the moment.”
Prof Hardy believes the same approach may also be a possible armament in the fight against other diseases like dementia.
Recently the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that dementia could “overwhelm health and social services, including long-term care systems”, if the projected number of cases continues to rise as predicted.
WHO said that as the global population ages, the number of people living with dementia is expected to triple from 50 million to 152 million by 2050.