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Could this little piggy be the cure?

31 January 2013

Could this little piggy be the cure?

A new drug made from a protein found in pig brains could improve concentration, memory processing and mood in patients with vascular dementia.

The drug, called Cerebrolysin, is licensed in some countries but not yet in the UK.  Researcher Li He of the Department of Neurology at Sichuan University in Sichuan, China, said, “Our
review suggests that Cerebrolysin can help improve cognitive and global function in patients with mild to moderate severity vascular dementia.”

It had some positive results in smaller trials and larger trials are now underway.  However, the
drug is not easy to administer, with regular intravenous infusion necessary.

The review looked at six trials conducted on 597 people.  All were given the new drug in  ifferent daily concentrations for different periods of time ranging from a few weeks to 3 years.  The results showed that compared to care alone or placebos, Cerebrolysin significantly improved brain function in many cognitive tests.

Dr He said, “The results are promising but due to low numbers of trials, inconsistencies between trials, risk of bias in the way some of the trials were conducted and lack of long-term follow-up, we cannot yet recommend Cerebrolysin as a routine treatment for vascular dementia.”

He added, “This indicates to us that Cerebrolysin is safe and well tolerated by patients with vascular dementia.  But the fact that it has to be given in regular intravenous infusions means it could be impractical for use on a large scale.”

Dr Eric Karran, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said, “Systematic reviews are an incredibly valuable tool, as they pull together the best available evidence on a particular treatment or intervention.  This review found that Cerebrolysin does appear to have some cognitive benefits for people with vascular dementia, although it is not clear how these might translate into day-to-day improvements in people’s lives.”

He continued, “It is positive to see potential new treatments tested in people, but larger clinical trials are needed before we could know whether Cerebrolysin could be a feasible treatment option for people with the condition.  Vascular dementia affects thousands of people in the UK, but sadly there are no specific treatments available for people with the condition.  Research into new treatments is absolutely vital, but without continued investment, promising findings cannot be taken forward. We must ensure that research into dementia remains a national priority.”

Jessica Smith, research officer at the Alzheimer’s Society, said, “This review is interesting but highlights the lack of research into vascular dementia.  If we are to really understand
whether Cerebrolysin can potentially be used to treat people, more research is needed into its long term effects.  Vascular dementia is the second most common form of the condition affecting around a quarter of all people with dementia.  While other forms of dementia have seen progress in research, there is currently no treatment for vascular dementia.  We desperately need more research and more funding for research if we are to develop effective interventions for all forms of dementia.”