New research suggests an experimental drug can drastically reduce the amount of a troublesome plaque that's found in the brains of Alzheimer's patients—though researchers stress that more study is needed. After comparing the brains of elderly people with and without cognitive decline, researchers identified an immune compound and created a drug, aducanumab, as a substitute. Some 165 Alzheimer's patients were then given one of four monthly doses of the drug, of varying strength, or a placebo. After a year, the amyloid beta plaque in the brains of patients given aducanumab had been dramatically reduced and had "almost completely disappeared" in those given the highest dose, a researcher tells Live Science.
However, there's much more to consider: Firstly, some patients with a gene variant linked to Alzheimer's experienced pockets of fluid in the brain, which can lead to brain bleeds, per CNN. Secondly, there's no definitive proof that amyloid plaque—which accumulates in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, but can be found in most aging brains—causes the disease and isn't simply a side-effect. The study also didn't analyze cognitive performance, though researchers say aducanumab appeared to slow cognitive and functional decline. "Confirmation of a cognitive benefit would be a game-changer," an expert writes in an editorial. Otherwise, aducanumab would need to be taken before cognitive symptoms appear. (Weed might also help.)