China gives nod to Oligomannate drug to treat Alzheimer’s, world's first in 20 years

If you are in your 20s, the reality of Alzheimer's might feel really far away to you. Well, what if we told you that you might not have to worry about it at all? For the first time in the 20 years, a drug for Alzheimer's that claims to reverse the condition in the early stages and substantially improve cognitive function up to stage four of the disease has been approved for human use

Myupchar November 06, 2019 13:21:18 IST
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China gives nod to Oligomannate drug to treat Alzheimer’s, world's first in 20 years
  • A drug claims to reverse the condition of Alzheimer's in the early stages and substantially improve cognitive function up to stage four of the disease

  • Research team lead by Geng Meiyu was inspired by low incidence of Alzheimer's in people who consumed seaweed and they moved ahead with the idea to find a cure for the disease

  • Chinese government gave conditional approval to a drug named Oligomannate, derived from seaweed, to treat mild to moderate cases of Alzheimer's disease

If you are in your 20s, the reality of Alzheimer's might feel really far away to you. You do not need to worry about it for at least two decades. Well, what if we told you that you might not have to worry about it at all?

China gives nod to Oligomannate drug to treat Alzheimers worlds first in 20 years

Representational image. Getty Images

For the first time in the 20 years, a drug for Alzheimer’s that claims to reverse the condition in the early stages and substantially improve cognitive function up to stage four of the disease has been approved for human use.

On Saturday night, the Chinese government gave conditional approval to a drug named Oligomannate to treat mild to moderate cases of Alzheimer's disease.

Seaweed connection

Oligomannate is derived from seaweed (brown algae). A research team lead by Geng Meiyu was inspired by the low incidence of Alzheimer’s in people who consumed seaweed. This motivated them to move ahead with the idea to find a cure for the disease. Geing is a professor and principle investigator of Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The drug was proposed to the Chinese authorities last year as well, but the researchers were unable to explain how the drug would work which resulted in it not getting approved.

This time, after a clinical trial on 818 patients, the team lead by Geng published a paper mentioning the mechanism of action of the drug. Referring to Oligomannate as a multitasker, researchers said, “It not only reduces the formation of a protein harmful to the neurons but also regulates the bacterium colonies in human intestines to reduce the risk of brain inflammation.”

Understanding Alzheimer’s disease

Named after German doctor Alois Alzheimer, who first identified the disease in 1906, Alzheimer's is a disease in which the patient's brain cells start to degenerate slowly. As the disease progresses, most patients start to show characteristic symptoms such as repeating words, feeling depressed, feeling lost even in familiar surroundings and being unable to recognise the faces of family members.

So far, there is no absolute cure for Alzheimer’s. If the current trend continues, the World Health Organisation data show, there could be 150 million Alzheimer’s patients around the world by 2050 and more than a quarter of them would be in China.

With Oligomannate, the hope is that doctors will be able to reverse cases that are diagnosed early and arrest the degeneration in others. Yet, there's much that remains to be done. For starters, the approval for Oligomannate is conditional, the researchers have been asked to look for long term safety and effectiveness of the drug. Second, the drug is only beneficial for mild to moderate cases.

Clinically, Alzheimer's disease has seven stages of development and progression. The newly developed drug is effective only up to stage four of the disease. Geng says, once your brain reaches a certain point of destruction, it can not revert back to normal through this drug.

The gut feeling

Earlier researches have shown that an imbalance in gut bacteria induces inflammation in the brain, which is a possible risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. The Chinese seaweed drug Oligomannate supposedly balances out the microbial population present in the human gut and in turn reduces brain inflammation.

Given that, Oligomannate could be a new ray of hope for people fighting Alzheimer’s across the world. Green Valley Pharmaceuticals (who developed the drug with the research team) say that the drug will be available by year-end for use by the general population in China.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more information, please read Alzheimer’s Disease.

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