Research Offers Hope For Those With Alzheimer’s Disease.
by Larry Launstein Jr.
Three Michigan companies are joining the fight against Alzheimer’s Disease, age-related illness from which thousands die from every year, and is not currently treatable.
But according to these companies and the people involved in the effort to find a cure, hope may be in sight. They include Dr Muraleedharan Nair, of Michigan State University and Natural Therapies; Mark Gurney, PhD, MD of Tetra Discovery Partners, Inc; and Michael Fossel, BA, MA, PhD, of Telocyte.
Natural Therapeutics is operated by Dr Nair, Michigan State University’s Department of Horticulture natural products chemist.
“This particular research has focused on Ashwagandha, an herbal remedy that’s been used in Eastern medicines for centuries,” according to Nair. “Our compound ‘with anamides’ may work to prevent Alzheimer’s Disease at the onset, and it also could prevent its progression.”
According to a March 2015 story in the MSU Today website, plants cannot be patented, but the compounds from them can be. MSU owns the patent to this formula, but says that the compound is very potent, and is far stronger than anything currently on the market. Further, protein might be used to stop Alzheimer’s at its earliest stages, when a protein starts to cleave, creating a bad protein called beta-amyloid peptides (BAP).
Cleaving is a natural process that takes place in the aging process, but the article maintains that pharmaceutical companies have only been targeting one source of cleaving that can cause BAP. It can cause stress to cell membranes, cause plaque to form, and then kills the cells. It starts at the front of the brain, wiping out memory, and then works farther into the brain.
Nair holds almost 90 US and international patents, and has been using 'withanamides' to stop this cleavage at its earliest point. Clinical trials will start once funding is in place. Nair, with the help of his collaborators, has tested 'withanamides' on mouse brains with positive results. This finding was published by Nair in Phytotherapy Research, where he contended that 'withanamides' made it through the blood barrier, which is a filter of chemicals that reach the brain, and reached its target. This was the final hurdle before trying it in human tests.
Clinical trials could take six to 12 months, and once that’s complete, Nair and Natural Therapeutics will seek Food and Drug Administration approval.
Nair owns a doctorate from the University of the West Indies in Organic Chemistry. He is a chartered chemist and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Royal Society of Chemistry, London, and earned a masters degree in business administration from the University of Calicut in Analytical Chemistry; as well as a bachelor’s of science degree in Chemistry from the University of Calicut.
Another program seeking a cure for Alzheimer’s is the Grand Rapids-based company Tetra Discovery Partners, Inc., founded by Dr Gurney, who earned his doctorate in Neuroscience from the California Institute of Technology, and has a Master of Business Administration from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.
Gurney serves as Chairman and CEO at Tetra. According to the website Rapid Growth, Tetra was began clinical trials around September 2015 on a drug for Alzheimer’s. If the data from those trials showed success, Tetra would apply to the FDA for human trials.
“The [Alzheimer’s] drugs we’re working with actually improve memory in healthy animals,” Gurney said. “So they improve performance beyond what the healthy person is currently capable of. So with Alzheimer’s patients, we hope it will help improve their ability in daily living. We’d like to see an improvement rather than just them not worsening.”
Gurney also added that the Alzheimer’s drug has potential to be applied to other neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s Disease, Huntington’s Disease, and schizophrenia, among others, by reconfiguring neural pathways in the brain.
“It’s a very fundamental biochemical pathway in the brain that this drug is affecting,” Gurney said.”And what the animal studies are telling us is that the efficacy should be very good, and it could be very helpful to patients across all these different diseases.”
The third site of potential pioneering advances in this essential challenge to find a cure for Alzheimer’s began in an unlikely location – a 180-year-old farmhouse in Ada, just outside Grand Rapids.
That farmhouse is where Telocyte, a bio-tech company dedicated to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s, was founded. It is now located in Grand Rapids. Dr Fossel, the company’s co-founder, received joint Bachelors and Masters degrees in psychology from Wesleyan University in Connecticut; and a Doctorate in neurobiology at Stanford University.
In a recent story in mLive, Fossel said there is enough available evidence to find a cure. “It looks like we can finally begin to address age-related diseases and do something about them.” Over the course of 30 years, Fossel has researched the illness. His 1999 book Reversing Human Aging was the first of many he has authored about the aging process. In his most recent book, The Telomerase Revolution, Fossel discussed an enzyme in the chromosome that is involved in aging.
Fossel and the company’s co-founder, British tech-entrepreneur Peter Rayson, have been working to raise money for the clinical trial for Telocyte and its “telomerase” treatment from the FDA; and are seeking permission from them to conduct human trials.
The motivation behind this effort, according to Fossel, is because “I don't want people to spend 20 years longer in a nursing home,” he said. “I want them to spend 20 years wrestling with their grandkids.” To that end, Fossel says that his company is not looking for something that will alleviate Alzheimer’s symptoms, but for an all-out cure that targets the cells that causes aging, and the disease.
He also said that he hopes to eliminate treatment altogether, much like the polio vaccine did in virtually ending that disease in the 1950s, obviating the necessity for iron lungs.
“I think we what we can do is finally show it's not a matter of perhaps slowing and treating the symptoms, but we can do something to reverse the problems of Alzheimer's Disease,” Fossel said.
Fossel is a former emergency room physician at Mercy Health St. Mary’s, in Grand Rapids, and has served as a lecturer at Grand Valley State University’s bio-medical program in Allendale Township. He also taught at Michigan State University’s Medical School and wrote several textbooks while keeping up with research on aging. He said he hopes his latest book will focus more on aging at the cellular stage, instead of addressing the symptoms.
Nair, Gurney and Fossel and their companies have put a lot of time, effort, and research to try to cure Alzheimer’s disease, and help may be finally on the way to treat this illness.