Testing new treatments for Alzheimer's disease, from the January 2013 Harvard Health Letter

Harvard doctors are testing two new approaches to Alzheimer's disease aimed at reversing the condition or its symptoms, reports the January 2013 Harvard Health Letter.

Dr. Rudy Tanzi helped create a drug called PBT2. It prevents the production of protein plaques and tangles that kill brain cells. "It also induces new neurons to grow in the hippocampus, which improves executive function," says Dr. Tanzi, who is the Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School. PBT2 is now in clinical trials in Australia.

The second new approach is NeuroAD, a treatment from Israel being tested at Harvard for the management of AD symptoms. NeuroAD uses a magnet to stimulate a region of a person's brain that is being affected by Alzheimer's and then immediately challenges him or her to solve problems on a computer. During a session, each brief brain stimulation is followed by a computer challenge. "It doesn't cure the disease, but it does make the brain circuits work better, and this leads to a striking improvement in cognitive abilities for day-to-day tasks," says lead researcher Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone, professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School.

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