In a recent study from Monash University, scientists found a promising new treatment for patients with frontotemporal dementia, the second most common form of dementia in those under the 60s.
They found that the drug, sodium selenate, may slow cognitive decline and neurodegenerative damage that is the hallmark of many dementias including Alzheimer’s Disease.
Behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) is a rapidly progressing destructive disease and can occur in people as young as 35 years of age.
It is characterized by behavioral disturbances and personality changes and can be highly disruptive and distressing for both patients and their families.
In almost half of the cases with bvFTD, the damage to the neurons in the brain is caused by the build-up of a protein called tau.
This protein is a major target for research in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, as a way to reverse the neurodegeneration caused by this tau accumulation.
Currently, there are no treatments or cures for bvFTD and typical survival is 5–7 years from diagnosis.
In the study, the team found that the drug, sodium selenate is safe and well-tolerated in patients with bvFTD over a period of 12 months.
Importantly, most patients receiving sodium selenate showed no change in their cognitive or behavioral symptoms and reduced rates of brain atrophy over the trial period.
According to the team, sodium selenate upregulates an enzyme in the brain that effectively breaks down the tau protein.
Researchers have previously shown that sodium selenate given to patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s Disease resulted in less neurodegeneration than in those who did not.
Importantly those patients in the trial with higher levels of selenium, a breakdown product of sodium selenate, in their bloodstream showed a less cognitive decline.
The research group is now conducting a larger study at many hospitals across Australia and New Zealand to further test whether this drug is beneficial for patients with bvFTD.
If you care about dementia, please read studies that your walking speed may tell your risk of dementia, depression, and more, and taller men have a lower dementia risk.
The research is published in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Translational Research and Clinical Interventions and was conducted by Dr. Lucy Vivash et al.
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