Early drug tests show success treating Alzheimer’s as ‘diabetes of the brain’

WCVB5 — BOSTON —  Are researchers close to redefining how Alzheimer’s disease causes brain cells to fail?

A new drug known as T3D-959 treats the disease as though it’s actually “diabetes of the brain” — and many medical experts are encouraged by its results so far in drug studies.

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“It’s a unique molecule, a unique investigational drug which is designed to hit the very earliest stages before even the plaques and tangles develop and the memory problems develop in these patients,” explained Dr. Warren Strittmatter, chief scientific officer at T3D Therapeutics and the former chief of neurology at Duke University Medical Center.

Strittmatter said the brain is dependent on glucose as an energy source. A reduction in glucose metabolism in the brain is one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Cells of the brain, like we see cells in the body of diabetes, are not able to use glucose as much,” said Dr. Marc Agronin, a geriatric psychiatrist serving as the drug’s principal investigator. “The goal of the medication like T3D-959 would be to enhance brain cells’ ability to use this fuel to enhance metabolism.”

The phase 2 study involved just 36 patients at two sites in North Carolina and Florida.

There was no placebo. Each patient received the actual drug, T3D-959, taking it once a day for just two weeks.

The impact was almost immediate. Researchers measured significant memory improvement in 53 percent of patients. Many caregivers were astonished.

“They saw their loved ones being more involved and engaged in activities during the day,” Agronin said. “They felt that they were sharper in terms of memory and language. They were more organized during the day.”

Jim Wessler, president of the the Mass/NH Alzheimer’s Association, said he believes the early results for T3D-959 are “phenomenal,” but cautioned against celebrating too soon.

“Given the very small sample size, we really need to see more participants to see if this holds up as you move from dozens to hundreds of participants,” Wessler said. “But I would say encouraging.”

Researchers hope to expand the study within the next 18 months to hundreds of patients at sites across the country.

“The main message here is that there is hope for improving the quality of lives for people with Alzheimer’s disease,” Agronin said. “There’s hope in getting closer to a cure.”