Information about Potential New Alzheimer's Treatments

Q: Are there new therapies on the horizon for Alzheimer's?

A: In their quest for new ways to treat Alzheimer's disease, researchers have discovered a naturally occurring compound that may help to stabilize cognitive functioning in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's. The compound, dubbed NIC5-15, is found in pinecones and other plant material.

Because it has mild insulin-sensitizing effects, NIC5-15 has been used at low doses to treat people with diabetes who are resistant to insulin. Some researchers believe that the compound may also slow or stop the formation of the beta-amyloid plaques that are characteristic of Alzheimer's.

In preliminary trials conducted at the Mount Sinai Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, NIC5-15 (at doses higher than previously used) was found to be safe and effective at stabilizing the cognitive performance of people with Alzheimer's over a six-week period. Measurements of Alzheimer's biomarkers like beta-amyloid peptide levels also were stabilized.

NIC5-15 is a gamma-secretase inhibitor, a newer class of drugs that is thought to effectively inhibit the development of beta-amyloid plaques. Phase II clinical trials were recently completed on the compound; these are expected to lead to larger, more comprehensive trials of this promising treatment.

However, a different gamma-secretase inhibitor was just withdrawn from testing because study subjects who got the drug did worse than those who had received a placebo pill.

Publication Review By: Peter V. Rabins, M.D., M.P.H.

Published: 21 Mar 2011

Last Modified: 02 Oct 2014