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A new drug that offers hope to people with Huntingdon’s disease was greeted with much enthusiasm last week by the scientific community. Scientists, not usually prone to hyperbole, were quick to declare the findings of the drug trial at University College London (UCL) as ‘the biggest breakthrough in 50 years.’

If drug IONISHTTRx really can tackle the toxins that cause this devastating neurodegenerative disease- and if it can also be used to treat other neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s – the description is certainly fitting. In fact, if all continues to go well with the trials, scientists reckon the first drug to treat Alzheimer’s could be available in ‘just a few years.’ But that’s quite a few ifs…

‘The results of this trial are of ground breaking importance,’ says Professor Sarah Tabrizi, who led this phase 1 trial.

‘I don’t want to overstate this too much, but if it works for one (Huntingdon’s) why can’t it work for a lot of them? I am very, very excited’ says Professor John Hardy, a neuroscientist at University College London (who was not involved with the trial.)

However, whilst their excitement certainly brings new reasons to hope, it’s important to note that the research is still in its early stages. The trial itself was small, involving 46 men and women with early stage Huntingdon’s disease, and although a major new trial will be launched soon, results won’t be available any time soon.

Professor Giovanna Mallucci, from the UK Dementia Research Institute, describes the trial result as a ‘tremendous step forward’ for those with Huntingdon’s disease, but adds that the genetic causes of Alzheimer’s are complex and potentially harder to target.

In other words, whilst this trial is undoubtedly promising… only time will tell whether drug IONISHTTRx will prove to be a life changer.

Another dementia breakthrough? Here’s what you need to know:

If you’re growing increasingly confused by the number of stories about dementia ‘cures’ in the media, the Alzheimer’s Society has published a handy guide to help you work out whether they’re worth taking seriously.

Points to look out for include

1-Has it been tested on people?
Some stories you read about treatments that ‘could cure’ dementia have only been tested in labs and/or on animals. This is only the first stage of research…so it’s far too early to say whether this drug is or isn’t a ‘cure.’

2-How big was the trial or study?
If less than a few hundred people took part in the study, it’s too small to be of significant value. A bigger study needs to happen before the results can be trusted.

3-What stage is the research at?
Clinical trials are usually a three-step process (Phase 1, Phase 2, and Phase 3). If the story you are reading concerns a Phase 1 or Phase 2 trial, even if the results are really promising, it’s still too early to tell if this drug is going to work.

For more information go here