Injection that can halt progress of Alzheimer's could be here in a decade
An injection capable of halting the progress of Alzheimer's could be available to patients within a decade, Britain's leading dementia organisation has predicted.
The Alzheimer's Society said a series of recent breakthroughs in treatments that disrupt harmful genes had brought scientists to a "tipping point" in their fight against the disease.
For decades, researchers have sought without success a treatment for Alzheimer's based on targeting damaging proteins that build up in the brain.
However, the "remarkable" results of a recent trial that set out to silence the troublesome genes that regulate proteins in children with a rare spinal condition has convinced scientists they could adopt the same approach in people at high risk of dementia.
In an interview with 'The Daily Telegraph', Dr James Pickett, the head of research at the Alzheimer's Society, said a spinal injection that prevents certain forms of the disease taking hold could be available in under 10 years.
The treatment, using so-called "molecular scissors", would not alter a person's fundamental genetic code, but rather the way specific genes known to play a role in dementia communicate.
Such a drug would principally benefit around 18,000 people in the UK with a high risk of hereditary Alzheimer's, approximately 2pc of the overall population of those with the disease. These include early onset Alzheimer's, which can affect people as early as in their thirties.
There is currently no cure for any form of the disease.
"2019 is a tipping point for dementia gene therapy," said Dr Pickett. "There are lots of different pieces of the puzzle coming together.
"We've got all of this genetic knowledge, like cancer researchers did 30 years ago, and we're now investing in understanding it and exploiting it."
Scientists know of 25 genes that significantly increase a person's risk of Alzheimer's, up from just one in 2012.
Dr Pickett said that preventive treatments for non-familial or "sporadic" Alzheimer's disease, the form suffered by the majority of patients which usually develops after 65, remain "further away".