A Singapore-based biotech company has begun late-stage clinical trials on a new kind of drug that could slow or even stop the progression of Alzheimer's disease.
Reuters reports that TauRx Therapeutics has begun Phase III studies on the experimental medication LMTX. The drug works by blocking the accumulation of tau protein, which forms twisted fibers and tangles in brain cells. It is believed that tau is one of the primary causes of Alzheimer's, a form of dementia that causes gradual deterioration of the memory and thinking process and, eventually, death.
LMTX targets the tangles of tau protein in the brain, dissolving them and thus halting their destructive effects.
Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports that privately-held TauRx Pharmaceuticals has begun enrolling patients worldwide for Phase III trials. More than 1,300 people in over a dozen countries will participate.
Although tau proteins have been suspected as primary culprits in the progression of Alzheimer's since the 1990s, other pharmaceutical companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly and Pfizer have focused on targeting beta amyloid plaques, another type of protein, with their experimental drugs.
Computer rendering of a microtubule-associated tau protein.
"The field has been dominated by the amyloid hypothesis," TauRx chairman Claude Wischik, who is also a professor of old-age psychiatry at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, told Bloomberg BusinessWeek. "I expect that to change over time. It is really time to test the role of tau," he said.
Rember, an earlier form of LMTX, was tested with remarkable results. According to data from mid-stage clinical trials reported in 2008, patients demonstrated a 90 percent reduction in Alzheimer's progression over a two-year period.
If TauRx's trials are successful, a twice-a-day pill could be on the market in just four years, MailOnline reports. The four-year target was announced at the Clinical Trials Conference on Alzheimer's Disease in Monte Carlo, Monaco.
Wischik told MailOnline that if successful, the pill could eventually be prescribed to everyone over the age of 60 regardless of whether or not they showed signs of dementia.
"It flatlines the disease," Wischik said. "If you get in early, you can pull people back from the brink."
Even if LMTX fails to live up to it's 'miracle cure' billing and only proves effective at slowing the progression of Alzheimer's, Wischik says it could still prove hugely beneficial.
"Even if people are progressing very slowly, they can stay at home with their loved ones for longer, rather than having to go into institutional care," he told MailOnline.
Critics warn against excessive optimism, as many drugs fail in Phase III trials.