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Drug helps patients talk again


Alzheimer’s victims suffering from a condition that interferes with the mind’s language centre have been offered hope from a drug used to treat arthritis.

Research found that perispinal use of the immune molecule etanercept results in rapid improvement of aphasia and word-finding difficulties – beginning within minutes of administration of the drug.

Aphasia involves a difficulty in understanding or producing language. This can result in difficulties with reading, writing and talking.

Disruption of language function, such as the ability to find words, is a common symptom in advancing Alzheimer’s disease and constitutes an enormous unmet medical need.

The report, published in the Medscape Journal of Medicine, found that etanercept inactivates excess levels of an immune cytokine called tumour necrosis factor (TNF). It is FDA-approved for treating certain forms of arthritis and a skin disorder in both children and adults. This use of perispinal etanercept for dementia and Alzheimer’s is beyond the FDA label (off-label).

TNF is a critical component of the brain’s immune system which finely regulates the transmission of neural impulses between brain cells. Lead author of this study, Dr Edward Tobinick, hypothesised that in Alzheimer’s and related forms of dementia elevated levels of TNF interfere with brain function and could respond to treatment with perispinal etanercept.

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