The theory that brain plaques cause Alzheimer’s disease may be on its last legs. Readers who watched our “Awakening from Alzheimer’s” video interviews last autumn already know the plaque theory is under challenge.
Now, the recent failure of a drug trial conducted by a pharmaceutical giant, Merck & Co., may start a rush for the exits as scientists give up trying to tackle Alzheimer’s disease by the route of reducing plaques.
Merck ran into a wall in its clinical tryout of a drug that’s supposed to relieve Alzheimer’s by cutting back on the “harmful” proteins called amyloid plaques. This huge international corporation with about 70,000 employees and revenues of $40 billion a year bet big on the brain plaque theory.
They lost. The company had to stop the clinical trial before it was scheduled to end.
The reason: It was just too obvious that, in this test involving more than 2,000 people with Alzheimer’s disease, the new drug was totally worthless.
Or — as the committee of scientists who were analyzing the test results said – there was “virtually no chance of finding a positive clinical effect.”
There are basically two reasons why a high-flying drug company like Merck – and other drug companies, include Eli Lilly — have gone so wrong in trying to concoct a drug to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
The first, most obvious cause is that the drug researchers are totally mistaken in their approach to the disease. By going after the amyloid plaque in the brain that forms during Alzheimer’s, they are trying to do away with a frequent result of Alzheimer’s disease, while missing the root cause.
And if the plaque is merely a symptom of the underlying condition, then wiping away the plaque will still leave an Alzheimer’s patient suffering from compromised brain function.
Professor Rudolph Tanzi, an Alzheimer’s researcher at Harvard, warns, “As I’ve said for years, but pharmaceutical companies don’t seem to listen, treating beta amyloid in patients who already have clinical symptoms is too late. Once dementia begins, the brain must be saved by stopping neuroinflammation.”1
Prof. Tanzi is right on the money with his observation about inflammation. More than likely, beta-amyloid plaques are merely the body’s reaction – like scar tissue – to the never-ending assault of chronic inflammation. Inflammation is a society-wide epidemic that’s implicated not only in dementia but in cancer, heart disease, arthritis and diabetes as well.
The focus on brain plaques reminds me of another medical blooper, the decades-long mania about cholesterol and artery plaques. The medical profession decided these fatty deposits were the “cause” of heart disease. Doctors still remain puzzled why reaming the plaques out of arteries and reducing circulating blood fats like cholesterol does so little to control heart disease.
The plaques simply build up again, because the real, underlying cause – inflammation – has not been addressed.
Brain Plaques Don’t Even “Prove” Alzheimer’s is Present
Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum is an integrative M.D. who was one of the authorities we interviewed for our video event. He points out that – as proven by autopsies — many people who have plaques in their brains enjoy normal memory function right up to the day they die.
Dr. Teitelbaum’s assertion is backed up by tests like those done at Emory University in Atlanta demonstrating that plaque build-up in the brain often leaves memory unscathed.2
“It’s been known for some time that many older people have amyloid buildup without having symptoms of Alzheimer’s,” researcher Allan Levey confirms. He’s a Neurology Professor at Emory.
He notes that, at this point in time, nobody really understands the relationship between plaque and Alzheimer’s disease, although he believes people with plaque AND a sound memory may “have a cognitive reserve, or have some biological mechanisms of resilience against the negative effects of amyloid.”
Or the amyloid could actually be protecting the brain, like the scar tissue I used as an analogy a moment ago.
A study at Massachusetts General Hospital shows that in many instances, amyloid acts as an antibiotic in the body and can protect nerve cells from infection.3
In any case, experts like Dr. Teitelbaum say that up to half the cases of supposed Alzheimer’s disease don’t involve plaque at all and are really brain difficulties caused by other factors.
Dr. Teitelbaum and other integrative doctors, such as Dale Bredesen, are developing protocols that involve controlling blood sugar and making the body less insulin resistant, dealing with chronic infections, treating sleep disorders (a major cause of dementia), getting proper nutrition and avoiding prescription drugs that interfere with the function of the brain’s neurons.
It’s plain to see – you’ll get more benefit from natural ways to protect your brain than by waiting for Big Pharma to stumble on an Alzheimer’s solution. If it ever does.