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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
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Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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Alzheimer's Braked by Vitamin E
23 April 1997 8:00 pm
High daily doses of vitamin E seem to help people with Alzheimer's live on their own for about 7 months longer than untreated patients, scientists have found. Another drug, currently prescribed for Parkinson's disease, has a similar effect. But it isn't clear whether either treatment, reported in tomorrow's issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, delays the onset of symptoms.
In the past, researchers have monitored the deterioration of Alzheimer's patients using tests of memory and cognition. But Mary Sano, a neuroscientist at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and her colleagues took a different approach: gauging the effect of two drugs on how well patients could take care of themselves. "We focused on outcomes that we think are important to patients and their families," she says. For 2 years, her team tracked the symptoms of 341 people who had been diagnosed 5 years earlier with moderately severe Alzheimer's disease. Each day, the patients swallowed either 2000 milligrams of vitamin E, 10 milligrams of selegiline, both medications, or neither.
None of the patients got better, but deterioration in the ability to eat, dress, or cook was 25% slower in those taking one or both drugs. On average, patients on the medication lasted about 220 days longer--for a total of about 21 months--before they developed severe dementia, lost their ability to perform daily living tasks, became institutionalized, or died. Surprisingly, the combination therapy was not as protective as vitamin E or selegiline alone. Both are thought to act as antioxidants, protecting nerve cells from charged molecules. "We believe there was some sparing of neurons," says co-author Leon Thal, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego.
Experts are encouraged by the finding, but a bit perplexed. Because neither vitamin E nor selegiline seems to affect cognition, it's puzzling how these medications helped the patients, says David Drachman, a neurologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester. "These results are preliminary," he cautions.